Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is celebrating his eightieth birthday this year. It’s good to welcome back into the catalogue this Collins Classics recording from 1996. Naxos is to be congratulated for its sustained devotion to the composer’s music. The final two concertos featured here draw the cycle to a close. No.9 brings together a group of, shall we say, Cinderella instruments normally overshadowed by their senior brothers and sisters within the woodwind ranks. No.10 is a virtuoso piece for the full orchestra.
Concerto No.9 is a single movement with three separate sections. The CD booklet talks about the composer’s desire to recreate in orchestral colours the weather that invades his Orkney home during the winter months. The colours are generally grey but there is plenty of colourful contrast as the work progresses. Indeed, I found the whole thing quite approachable and beautifully scored. The neglected instruments are handsomely rewarded in this score which offers a series of solo cadenzas, a passage where the soloists work as a sextet and then an extended seascape. This is a splendid work.
Concerto No.10 is really a symphony or maybe a concerto for orchestra. The opening movement is somewhat stark and severe and, to be frank, a wee bit rambling. As with all of Sir Peter’s scores there are ideas aplenty, some really special orchestral writing but the structure isn’t one of his strongest. There follows a grave slow movement with a glorious central climax and then a perky, light-hearted finale. This opens with a fragment of melody on the piccolo and the composer skilfully develops this fragment as the music become more uproarious. The masterstroke in the movement is where each soloist from the previous Strathclyde concertos takes centre-stage to perform a brief cadenza. The work ends in a triumphant jig that suddenly vanishes into the distance.
is a substantial bonus ... and what a tuneful bonus it is. Here we have the composer in his totally approachable mood. This serenade is occasional music written for one of the composer’s Danish friends. In line with commission, the work contains at least two memorable Scottish-sounding tunes and some dance music. There is also a nod in the direction of Aaron Copland, one of the dedicatee’s favourite composers. The Copland on display here isn’t the ebullient music written for Rodeo
and Billy the Kid
but more in line with his gentler, ruminative scores. Anyone who thinks that Maxwell Davies is thorny and difficult should hear this. It’s tremendously uplifting.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and soloists play magnificently throughout and the natural. detailed Collins recording sounds fresh and warm.
Previous review: Paul
Other Maxwell Davies recordings on Naxos
An interview with the composer