MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Crotchet  AmazonUK


Peter MAXWELL DAVIES (b. 1934)
Psalm 124 (1974) [8:44]
Dove, Star-Folded (2000) [8:21]
Economies of Scale (2002) [7:12]
Ave Maris Stella (1975) [28:34]
Gemini/Ian Mitchell
rec. PATS Studio I, Surrey University, 23 December 2005 and 8 October 2006 (Ave Maris Stella)
METIER MSV28503 [52:46]
Experience Classicsonline

I thought we were going to have ‘I was born under a wandering star’ with the opening low tones of Psalm 124. This is one of Davies’s earlier pieces referring to mediaeval and renaissance sources for some of the musical material. The slow unfolding of relatively straightforward intervals, transparent instrumentation including solo guitar recitatives, and low marimba, cello and bass clarinet sonorities gives the work a timeless, remote sort of feel. Gentle variations with flute and glockenspiel over the top add colour and sparkle in the opening, but the central bass clarinet solo sounds a little flat to me – not so much out of tune as giving little in the way of phrasing and tonal interest. Rather than fading, the piece rises to a sort of climax – one of those ambiguous ones to which you could effectively add a recapitulating coda, but the piece just stops.

Dove, Star-Folded is a string trio, and was written as a memorial for Sir Steven Runciman. This time the music has its origins in a Greek Byzantine hymn, referring to Sir Steven’s researches into Byzantine history. This is not an element which is immediately apparent, and Christopher Mark’s booklet notes indicate that the piece has been compared with the atmosphere to be found in late Beethoven Quartets, Op.132 for instance. Longer periods of introverted repose and some unexpected angular contrasts might give that idea, but I’m afraid the piece rumbled along without making much of an impression on me – probably because I’ve been listening to too much Shostakovich. The last minutes from 6:50 do however have their own serene beauty.

By way of contrast, Economies of Scale opens with an explosion of notes. The most recent piece in this programme; there are echoes of Messiaen in some of the piano writing, the birdlike phrases and the almost inevitable association with sonorities such as flautando violin and clarinet. The music has a fascinating narrative, almost programmatic content to my ears, seeming to pass through related events rather than flow in a way in which memory connects shapes to create structure over time. The intensity of the opening is counterbalanced by the serenity of the conclusion, creating a short story which you immediately want to read again.

At nearly half an hour, Ave Maris Stella is by a long way the most substantial work on this disc. Written for the ensemble The Fires of London, the virtuosic nature of the music reflects the avant-garde credentials of this legendary group, which was on a par with the London Sinfonietta. Their composer-directed recording on Unicorn-Kanchana is still available, and is still something of a must-have if you are interested in British contemporary music of the flared jeans and long hair period. There is a description in the booklet notes of the magic square matrix used in formulating the material for this piece, but it suffices to say that this is more of a springboard from which compositional processes can begin, rather than a strict serial technique à la Webern. While the plainchant from which the title derives appears to be and is part of the fabric of the piece, there is a greater sense of atonality in much of this music, making for something more of a sustained intellectual challenge for the listener. With a little extra concentration, and attention to the atmosphere and instrumental colours in the writing you should in fact discover that there are fewer problems than you might imagine. Each section is well enough defined, with contrasts between, for instance, an extended marimba solo, and a subsequent movement in which a rich interaction between the other instruments gathers seemingly disparate arguments into the more lyrical and expressive solos of the next. The ticking marimba in the exquisite final movement may or may not be a nod in the direction of colleague and clock fan Harrison Birtwistle, with whom Davies founded the Pierrot Players, predecessors of The Fires of London.

Gemini has performed and recorded extensively since its formation in 1974, working in music education as ensemble-in-residence at a number of institutes, and winning prizes and awards along the way. Like the builder’s broom, the various bits have changed over the years, but they make a fine noise: playing with great panache on this disc, and with a clear affinity with the composer’s craftsman-like idiom. The studio recording, while a little on the dry side, is also very good.

Dominy Clements

see also review by Gary Higginson


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.