One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,514 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

FOGHORN Classics

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Peter MAXWELL DAVIES (b. 1934)
Black Pentecost [54:00]
Stone Litany [22:44]
Della Jones (mezzo); David Wilson-Johnson (baritone)
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Peter Maxwell Davies
rec. BBC Studio 7, Manchester, September 1992
NAXOS 8.572359 [76:44]

Naxos continues its series of CDs devoted to the music of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies with this coupling first released by Collins Classics in 1992.

Black Pentecost is an imposing but unremittingly grim work. It’s also a political statement against capitalism and the destruction it can bring to the environment. The opening section is an orchestral introduction that gets the listener in the right frame of mind for what is to unfold. At 18 minutes long this is very much a symphonic opening movement, starting with hushed strings and building into a tense and dramatic musical arch. Those aware of the composer’s symphonies will pretty much know what to expect. The scoring and musical content are both dark and mysterious. The scene has now been set and the following three movements are scored for orchestra with vocal soloists. This is where the political points are made against the potential industrial ruination of the Orkneys. As the work progresses the music becomes even bleaker, especially in the closing movement, with the composer’s use of the vocal lines fully matching the unnerving text by George Mackay Brown. The music fades into silence with the mezzo-soprano describing the degradation of the “brave new world”. This is certainly not easy listening but the work can be appreciated after one hearing. There’s nothing off-putting about the musical language used and there is something quite gripping, evil and direct about the whole thing. Soloists and orchestra do the piece justice.

Stone Litany is a symphonic work in a single movement containing seven sections. Three of these sections are purely orchestral and a further four utilise the vocalist, not as a conveyor of text but as an obbligato line to merge with the sounds of the orchestra. The orchestration is lush, bright and shimmering. It is also original and peculiarly inventive - listen, for example, to the flexatone in the opening prelude. I’ve not come across this instrument since Khachaturian employed it in his piano concerto. The silky vocal melisma is beautifully sung by Della Jones and the playing of the BBC Philharmonic for the composer is top class, as it is in Black Pentecost. The work as a whole doesn’t have the gripping quality of Black Pentecost but the music is atmospheric and communicative. Amusingly the final movement is aptly called 'Max the Mighty'.

The recording is fairly typical of Collins Classics. It’s cut at a very low level but the quality is smooth and evocative with a natural balance. The opening of Black Pentecost is so quiet that I wondered whether or not the CD was actually playing for several seconds. Turn the volume up and the effect is splendid.

John Whitmore



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3