One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


16th-19th November


Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
Transparent Granite!


Nothing but Praise


BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set


Telemann continues to amaze


A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition


Another Bacewicz winner


match any I’ve heard


An outstanding centenary collection


personable, tuneful, approachable


a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.


music that will be new to most people


telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded


hitherto unrecorded Latvian music

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from
 

Sir Peter MAXWELL DAVIES (1934-2016)
Concert Overture: Ebb of Winter [17:41]
Hill Runes [7:58]
Last Door of Light [16:38]
Farewell to Stromness [4:26]
An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise [12:34]
Sean Shibe (guitar)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Ben Gernon
rec. Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 14-16 September 2015
LINN CKD534 [59:47]

The Grim Reaper has been disturbingly busy among celebrities in 2016 but, in the world of classical music, few will be more dearly missed than Peter Maxwell Davies (known as Max to one and all). The composer whose early career placed him firmly at the forefront of the British avant garde spent the second half of his life in the tranquil surroundings of the Orkney Islands. He was always grateful to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for being the first ensemble to give him a residency, so it is appropriate that it should be the SCO who issue this collection of his work, recorded before his death but released after it, which almost takes on the status of a memorial. Indeed, the orchestra’s outgoing Chief Executive pens a special memory piece in the booklet note.

The last years of Max’s life were overshadowed by his diagnosis of (and recovery from) leukaemia, and Ebb of Winter, like his tenth symphony, is written as a way of dealing with the disease’s impact on him. As its name suggests, however, Ebb of Winter is about his emerging from the depths of his illness and into recovery, something he saw mirrored in the changing season around him on Orkney, and so the piece reflects both his improving health and the revival of the natural world. Like much on this disc, it’s harmonically adventurous but not at all scary melodically. The hard-edged, frosty shimmerings of the opening are played with austere precision, then the piece later becomes warmer through its string theme. The ending is fonder but, if it’s not overflowing with positivity, then perhaps that’s an accurate reflection of life. The glockenspiel of the final bars is like melting icicles.

Last Door of Light is a meditation on climate change and its threat to the planet. It starts sparely but builds elements of unrest. That threat is mostly expressed as though from a distance, however, with dark, contrasting textures rather than nerve-jangling danger. The timpani lead the explosive climax, just when you think it's safe, and the ending is strangely inconclusive.

The disc ends with Max’s most popular orchestral work, and the title track of this disc. Orkney Wedding was written both to depict and to commemorate a wedding he attended, and it’s a straightforwardly programmatic piece with bad weather, a bridal procession and traditional dances that become ever more tipsy as the piece progresses, something the orchestra evidently enjoys enormously. The glorious sunrise that greets the guests as they leave the wedding is played on the bagpipes, sonically and spatially (the piper enters from the back of the hall then processes to the stage at the front) captured very well indeed.

Hill Runes for solo guitar is inspired by the elusive poetry of George Mackay Brown, the writer who was, in part, responsible for inspiring Max’s move to Orkney, and who, with him, was one of the driving forces in setting up the St Magnus Festival in 1977. The texture is prickly but clear, and the densely focused writing comes through very well both in the well-judged recording and in Sean Shibe’s precise playing. He also plays Timothy Walker’s lovely arrangement of Max’s most popular piece, the beautiful, haunting Farewell to Stromness, here sounding wistful and elegiac.

The programme is well chosen, excellently played and beautifully recorded, making it about the most accessible introduction to Max’s music that I can think of.

Simon Thompson

Previous review: Dominy Clements


 

 




Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
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

Sample: See what you will get

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