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Two Fiddlers

Photo: Gunnie Moberg

Kirkwall Grammar School, Orkney, 1978

Maxwell Davies, Peter

The Two Fiddlers (1978)

Duration: 50 minutes

Opera in two acts for young people to play and sing

English   Deutsch  

Libretto by the composer from a short story by George Mackay Brown (E,F,G,I,S)


5 singing roles and chorus (all to be performed by children) 2brandy glasses/SD/BD/tam-t/4susp.cym/cyms/choke cym/tamb/flex/ referee's whistle/swannee whistle/football rattle/guiro/nightingale/ beaters and scrapers including a pair of knitting needles/vln bows/ plastic soapdish/brushes-pft(=metronome,plectrum)-2vln(to be playedby the singers of the Two Fiddlers if possible).string quintet or sm all string orchestra-bagpipes(optional) (all instruments to be played by children)

Abbreviations (PDF)


This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Orkney Arts Theatre, Kirkwall, Orkney
Conductor: Norman Mitchell
Company: Kirkwall Grammar School


The story is an Orkney version of a widespread folktale. Two fiddlers are on their way home from a wedding when they encounter the trolls; Gavin escapes but Storm is drawn away to play for audiences underground. The grateful trolls grant his wish that his people should no longer have to work, but they trick him by keeping him much longer than he thinks. Meanwhile, Gavin acquires wife, children, grandchildren and material possessions; then Storm reappears, with twenty-one years gone for him in the twinkling of an eye. Reunited, the two friends go off to a party, where Storm finds that people have become utterly passive through the indulgence of the trolls, devoting their time to television, pop music and other horrors. He strikes up a new tune to break the spell and restore his people to useful activity. A celebratory haggis is piped in, and a final chorus points the moral.

Synopsis by Paul Griffiths




Contemporary, Environment, Magic/Mystery, Music/Arts, Mythology, Society

Recommended Recording

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Peter Maxwell Davies
Unicorn-Kanchana DKPCD9070 (Dances only)

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Two Fiddlers

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