Classical The best music site on the web there is where you can read about and listen to blues, jazz, classical music and much more. This is your ultimate music resource. Tons of albums can be found within. Mon, 27 Jun 2022 13:50:36 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Peter Maxwell Davies - Piano Concerto; Worldes Blis (2013) Peter Maxwell Davies - Piano Concerto; Worldes Blis (2013)

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Piano Concerto (1997) 	(36:02)
1 	I - Moderato - Più Mosso - Andante - Più Mosso - Andante 	17:22
2 	II - Adagio - 	8:35
3 	III - Allegro 	10:04
Worldes Blis (1966-69) 	(42:23)
4 	Lento Recitando - Lentissimo 	18:50
5 	L' Istesso Tempo - 	4:31
6 	Allegro - 	3:30
7 	Poco Più Mosso - 	6:19
8 	Allegro - 	1:46
9 	Lento 	7:27

Kathryn Scott – piano
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Peter Maxwell Davies – conductor


As with most releases in the Naxos series on Maxwell Davies, these recordings were previously issued on Collins Classics, Worldes Blis in 1993 and the Piano Concerto in 1998. On the back cover CD insert, there Read more The Sunday Telegraph to proclaim the concerto as “one of the most attractive and immediately likeable piano concertos to appear for some time.” Although I liked it, I would never make such a claim. This piece, though not as astringent or cerebral as some of Maxwell Davies’s music, is far from “immediately likeable.” It sounds, rather, like Prokofiev swathed in the harmonies of Berio or, at times, Ligeti, which makes it interesting but certainly not immediately appealing to the average listener. Crushed brass chords underscore the piano’s often atonal tinkling, and even attempts at producing melodic themes challenge the listener with their atonal or bitonal harmonic clashes. Again, the liner notes belie what one actually hears, describing “the tense ‘Scots-snap’ rhythms” and “A vivacious dance.” If you can dance to this stuff, you must have three legs and be hardwired in your brain for shifting cross-rhythms. Again, this is not a criticism of the music, which I found to be extremely interesting and among Maxwell Davies’s best works, but it is a very challenging piece with almost foreboding harmonies, and to pretend otherwise is to deceive the potential listener.

Since the concerto was dedicated to pianist Kathryn Stott, who plays it here, it is almost a foregone conclusion that her playing would be quite fine, and it is. I found her to be more of a cerebral rather than an emotional player, at least from this recording, and thus I’d have to say that the music suits her perfectly. Maxwell Davies appears to have assigned the most emotional passages to the orchestra, which keeps up an almost unbroken undercurrent of unease and menace, while the piano soloist merely overlays her commentary on this canvas. As a result I found this piece to be much more in line with Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta despite the very different melodic and harmonic style. The middle-movement Adagio , which is ironically the briefest of the three movements, presents the listener with a moment of relative inertia—the music barely, almost imperceptibly, nudges forward—but not of any calm or comfort. (Oddly enough, the use of pizzicato bass lines under the piano here almost, but not quite, put it in the realm of Third Stream music.) The third movement returns us to the unease of the first.

Worldes Blis, written in 1966-69, is based on a 13th-century plainchant yet is entirely instrumental. Here, Maxwell Davies’s flirtation with the kind of sound world being created by Ligeti is all the more obvious; even the use of a harp keeps the textures in the low range for much of the piece, and it seems to me to be more concerned with texture than anything else, though the slowly rising melody that begins in a solo cello is in some ways more melodic than anything in the concerto. Much of Worldes Blis has the same kind of rhythmic stasis and aura of unease that one hears in the middle movement of the piano concerto. It is, however, an interesting experiment in sound textures and suspension of time, so to speak, and it works very well. Slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, the music becomes busier, yet these “ Allegro s” will never be confused with a Mahler scherzo or a Prokofiev symphonic finale. As the music becomes busier, it also becomes denser both harmonically and rhythmically, pulling the listener along but not quite engaging one except to admire the cleverness of his construction. In brief, an interesting contribution to the growing Maxwell Davies collection. If only Naxos would do the same for the music of Nancy Van de Vate! ---FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley,

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]]> (bluesever) Maxwell Davies Peter Wed, 07 Jun 2017 14:46:27 +0000
The Last Island – Chamber Music by Peter Maxwell-Davies (2017) The Last Island – Chamber Music by Peter Maxwell-Davies (2017)

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1 The Last Island (2009)		[15:41]
2 A Postcard from Sanday (2012) 	  [3:10]
3 String Trio (2008)            [10:02]
Two Nocturnes (2010)
4  Nocturne No 1 	[2:46] 
5  Nocturne No 2 	[1:46]
6  Lullaby (1991)	[3:34]
7  Oboe Quartet (2012)		[16:12]
8  A Birthday Card for Jennifer (1997)      [0:47]
9  Sonata for Violin and Piano (2008)       [18:05]
10  String Quartet Movement (2016)          [4:42]

Hebrides Ensemble:
Zoë Beyers – violin, violin 1 (tracks 1, 3–7, 9, 10)
Sarah Bevan-Baker - violin 2 (tracks 1, 10)
Catherine Marwood - viola 2 (track 1), viola (tracks 3–5, 7, 10)
Jessica Beeston - viola 1 (track 1)
William Conway - cello (tracks 1, 3–7, 10), artistic director
Christian Elliott - cello 2 (track 1)
Emanuel Abbühl - oboe (track 7)
Philip Moore – piano  (tracks 2, 4–5, 8, 9)


Peter Maxwell Davies’s later music powerfully evokes the isolated majesty of his Orkney island home, yet it also bears witness to his talent for friendship – to his associations, both personal and musical, with friends and supporters in Scotland and further afield. Among the warmest was with William Conway, whom Davies first encountered as principal cellist of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and for whom he wrote the demanding solo part of his second Strathclyde Concerto. And it was for the Hebrides Ensemble, founded by Conway in 1991, that Davies wrote several of the most impressive and personal works to arise from his late engagement with chamber music – a genre in which he had previously worked rarely, here revealed as the 'last island' of this remarkable and prolific composer's output. On its second Delphian album, the Ensemble reciprocates Davies's friendship with definitive performances of works from his last decade, including the single completed movement of a string quartet left unfinished at his death.


Peter Maxwell Davies, who was born in 1934, died last year - in March 2016. His long career produced work in many genres; one of which seemed often to inspire or lead to another. The highly accomplished Glaswegian, William Conway, was the cellist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra during the ten year period (1987 to 1996) during which Maxwell Davies wrote the ten Strathclyde Concerti for the SCO. Conway subsequently formed the Hebrides Ensemble, which has consistently championed Max’s music. Indeed, it can plausibly be claimed that it has played a central role in much of that music which can be said to constitute the composer’s ‘late’ style.

That ‘late’ style has three characteristics: it is centered around the islands of Scotland (chiefly Orkney, of course) which Max knew and loved. And the Highlands cannot be understood without appreciating that Scotland’s many islands are not only an integral part thereof, but also a microcosm of the island nature of all Britain. These recent compositions also reflect a happy liaison between composer and specific musicians, indeed, musicians like those from the Hebrides Ensemble. Lastly, Maxwell Davies’ late work emphasises chamber music. But not as a distillation, certainly not a miniaturisation or diminution; rather a happy concentration, which seems actively to complement Maxwell Davies’ many large scale and sweeping symphonic works.

The players on this excellent and appealing CD, though, do bring a majesty and breadth to the music. It is certainly not small scale, but music of weight and significance that invites us to consider - to reconsider. One of the three lengthier works on the CD, The Last Island itself from 2009, for the whole Ensemble, is oddly far-ranging and invites us in its tonalities and changes of tempo to seek a resolution which appears elusive. But such is the depth of understanding of the idiom which the Hebrides Ensemble possesses that we realise at the end that our understanding of how immersion in the piece’s textures and shifting harmonic directions has affected us in ways that are completely consonant with what Max intended. The String Trio (written in 2008) is remarkable in that its three instruments have an attack, a presence, and - above all - a richness of texture as much akin to a full chamber orchestra as to three soloists. The music is varied, exciting and generous.

The other two longer works are the Oboe Quartet from 2012 and the violin and piano sonata dating from 2008. Perhaps more here than in any of the other works do we sense the struggle against illness which Maxwell Davies waged throughout the later stages of his life. Neither is a happy work; nor are they gloomy. Rather, determined and forceful. Indeed, the initial use of the higher registers of the oboe reinforcing the strings in the Quartet suggests courage and acceptance, rather than pity.

The Sonata is angular - angry almost. The violin has long semi-lyrical passages as if soaring around and contrasting with an absorption by the piano in life’s thornier bushes, knowing it can’t escape. Again, there’s a sense of nightmare. Interruption and distress seem to predominate. Yet the players do nothing to aid such emotions with spurious effects. Perhaps the most difficult moment is three quarters of the way in, when the piano sounds as though Max has suddenly jumped to one of his more folk-based tunes (like the hypnotic ‘Farewell to Stromness’) but he hasn’t, and has in fact invited us to see intensity from another side altogether. At the same time, the sinewy and taut playing style of every member of the Hebrides Ensemble blends the rawness of emotion which is called for with technical drive and reflection. The music always seems to be going somewhere. There is nothing for mere effect.

Of the other works, the two Nocturnes (both written in 2010) are equally eventful and rich in texture and invention without being lush or overblown. The Lullaby is the oldest work on this CD, dating from 1991; it has to be listened to more than once to find anything soporific in it. It’s more like a fairy tale than a sleep song as such.

One way to understand this is to think of the ways in which dreams can be as animated as they can reflect relaxation. There is often a sparse and pared-down economy to much of this music. Almost as a sound world of which Webern would have approved. The members of the Hebrides Ensemble are completely in accord with such restraint. Yet not for one minute do they omit or smear the necessary passion and heightened sense of reflection or drive which Max demands: nowhere is this truer than in the Oboe Quartet, which is perhaps the highlight of the CD for its embodiment and endorsement of latent enthusiasm in the face of the composer’s sense of (his own) mortality.

The final single movement for string quartet [tr.10] was being worked on when Maxwell Davies died. It’s just the generous side of ‘aggressive’ - full of energy and directness, yet with a sweetness and humanity that characterises Max’s entire output. As you listen to it, you realise what a remarkable composer he was. Not merely for his variety and abilities to work in so many types of music. Nor just for his courage in the face of adversity and the unusual circumstances of location and lifestyle. But for the sheer versatility and inventiveness, which were all so effective. Those familiar with Maxwell Davies’ music will want these works which are so expertly, sensitively and persuasively played. Those new to his world and wanting to hear some of its best will not be disappointed. None of these works appears to be otherwise available.

The acoustic is warm and spacious. Indeed, perhaps a touch over reverberant, which may to some ears add undue atmosphere, when Maxwell Davies’ music has always thrived on appreciation of its precision and integrity: the score is paramount. In the booklet Brian Morton’s and William Conway’s commentaries and notes on the context and substance of the works and their place in Maxwell Davies’ life are valuable and have some useful correctives… of the notion that the composer was a musical ‘hermit’, for example. He was not. ---Mark Sealey,

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]]> (bluesever) Maxwell Davies Peter Sun, 12 Nov 2017 13:20:56 +0000