GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: Brewski on May 02, 2007, 06:24:31 AM

Title: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Brewski on May 02, 2007, 06:24:31 AM
Last night I heard an absolutely stunning performance by the New York New Music Ensemble of Eight Songs for a Mad King, so I thought this would be a good excuse to start a thread on Peter Maxwell Davies.  This concert reminded me that I don't really know much of his music, although the NYNME did his Vesalii Icones a few years ago.

The concert was an excellent, all-British program, but the Maxwell Davies just blew the roof off the second half.  The singer was soprano Haleh Abghari, a regular presence on the contemporary music scene here, and an intriguing choice since the part is written for a male voice.  But it didn't matter in the least.  If anything, the gender switch only enhanced the sense of unease and craziness. 

Just to give a flavor of the performance: at the start, she was escorted out and tied to a chair, straitjacket-style, with a gag.  As the lights went up, she lifted her head, gazing out into the audience and looking totally, chillingly and completely mad.  The vocal part gives her opportunities to sing, speak, whisper, chatter, rasp, whistle and pretty much anything else she is capable of doing.  This part really needs a singer who can be a bit unconventionally theatrical, to say the least, and it was one of the most virtuoso performances I've seen in a long time.

The musicians did a fantastic job (conducted by Jeffrey Milarsky), given that they are also required to dance and interact somewhat with the vocalist.  Maxwell Davies' score uses what sound like fragments of Renaissance dances here and there, mixed with freely atonal elements, but the focus remains squarely on the voice.

Peter Maxwell Davies' website (http://www.maxopus.com/)

--Bruce
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Maciek on May 02, 2007, 10:14:42 AM

Peter Maxwell Davies' website (http://www.maxopus.com/)


Thanks for the link, Bruce. He has quite a nice site.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Hector on May 03, 2007, 04:56:29 AM
The man's an idiot, Master of the Queen's Musick and an idiot. Oh, I already said that.

Can't say it enough times though: the man & his music is/are an/a idiot. Avoid! >:D
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Todd on May 03, 2007, 05:05:08 AM
Based on the comments from both Bruce and Hector, it seems I should investigate this composer as soon as possible.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: karlhenning on May 03, 2007, 06:09:12 AM
Based on the comments from both Bruce and Hector, it seems I should investigate this composer as soon as possible.

:-)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Robert on May 03, 2007, 08:15:28 AM
The man's an idiot, Master of the Queen's Musick and an idiot. Oh, I already said that.

Can't say it enough times though: the man & his music is/are an/a idiot. Avoid! >:D
WOW strong words...I happen to enjoy Max....Any facts to back-up this harsh statement. The only IDIOT I have come in contact with was Dostoevsky's brainchild....
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: lukeottevanger on May 03, 2007, 11:11:31 AM
Even PMD's supposedly lesser works like the Naxos Quartets, which rveal more and more on each listen, are serious, powerful, imaginative and rich enough statements to make most contemporary composers embarrassed. His best ones are really beacons of the late 20th century rep. - literally so in the case of a masterpiece like The Lighthouse, quite simply the best opera of its sort I've ever heard.

Any composer who can 1) eat the Queen's swans and 2) write an opera (Resurrection) incorporating silent film chase music, catwalk cocktail jazz, mock-Elgar patriotism, Dixon of Dock Green close harmony whistling, apocalyptic Jesus army songs, Straussian imitations of squeaking condoms and flatulence and a winding-down 78 of Maggie Thatcher a la Clara Butt (just ofr starters) gets my vote.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: karlhenning on May 03, 2007, 11:18:45 AM
He ate the Queen's swans?  Don't they have animal protection society in Groit Britain?  8)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: lukeottevanger on May 03, 2007, 11:34:41 AM
I may be wrong, but I think all swans are the Queen's, technically. Something on those lines, anyway. Also a protected species, I suspect. And Max, newly installed as a (Republican ;D) Master of Liz's Music[k] finding a dead swan near his house, took it home for the pot. And promptly got in trouble of some sort.

Ah, yes, here you are: Swangate (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4361079.stm)

More Googling reveals that I was close with my first sentence: swans with unmarked beaks belong to the Queen, apparently, and are in general a protected species in this septic isle of Groit Britain [ ;D sic]:

Quote from: BBC
The Crown retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open waters but the Queen only exercises her right on stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries.

Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: not edward on May 03, 2007, 11:41:32 AM
PMD is one of those composers I've never managed to get into. The Songs for a Mad King always seemed too hectoring and over-the-top for home listening (though I bet it's astonishing live). I think the only other major works I have recordings of are the Violin Concerto (have the Stern recording and find the piece only intermittently inspiring) and the 5th symphony--of which I can remember nothing.

I'll give the symphony a spin tonight.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: lukeottevanger on May 03, 2007, 11:48:07 AM
Do try The Lighthouse. I'm repeating myself already, but it is the most perfect piece of PMD I've heard, more so than any of his abstract scores. I can't imagine anyone tuned in to contemporary music not falling for it - a gem in every detail and from every angle which I'd happily spend a thread talking about. There are, it is true, elements of 'Eight Songs'-ish vocal writing, but nothing quite so extreme, and in fact they are not really audible as 'extended techniques' on the recording, though the score reveals them as such.

'Hectoring', in the context of a comment earlier up this thread, was a good choice of adjective, BTW ;D
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: not edward on May 03, 2007, 12:08:07 PM
I'll take a look for it. I see it's one of those vanished Collins releases: any chance of it reappearing on Naxos or NMC, do you know?
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: lukeottevanger on May 03, 2007, 12:19:40 PM
No idea, sorry - I hope so. I'd forgotten the whole Collins issue. What a pain.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Al Moritz on May 03, 2007, 12:44:57 PM
How nice to have as my first post on this board one on this composer.

I second Luke's strong recommendation of The Lighthouse. Also, his symphonies # 1 through 4, as well as # 6, are terrific. I don't enjoy # 5 yet.

I was lucky to obtain all my Collins recordings from Berkshire Record Outlet around the time they were discontinued, for $ 4 to $ 6 a piece.

I consider PMD one of the major composers of the second half of the 20th century, just a bit below the top tier. He does have some limits of gestural language, but these become evident only upon exposure to a wider range of his output -- and Carter and Xenakis have their limits too (... Al ducks for cover).

Al
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Wendell_E on May 03, 2007, 01:01:22 PM
I'll take a look for it. I see it's one of those vanished Collins releases: any chance of it reappearing on Naxos or NMC, do you know?

You can download, or purchase "custom CDs" of many of his works, including The Lighthouse here:

http://music.maxopus.com/ (http://music.maxopus.com/)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: karlhenning on May 04, 2007, 03:34:09 AM
I may be wrong, but I think all swans are the Queen's, technically. Something on those lines, anyway. Also a protected species, I suspect. And Max, newly installed as a (Republican ;D) Master of Liz's Music[k] finding a dead swan near his house, took it home for the pot. And promptly got in trouble of some sort.

Ah. Road-kill  ;D
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: karlhenning on May 04, 2007, 03:34:32 AM
How nice to have as my first post on this board one on this composer.

Welcome, at last, Al!
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: karlhenning on May 04, 2007, 03:36:10 AM
PMD is one of those composers I've never managed to get into. The Songs for a Mad King always seemed too hectoring and over-the-top for home listening (though I bet it's astonishing live).

My experience pretty much aligns with this.

There was a spell during which I thought even better of Miss Donnithorne's Maggot, but in that case, I didn't stick with it longer term, and could not venture a "live" opinion.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Hector on May 04, 2007, 05:38:59 AM
PMD is one of those composers I've never managed to get into. The Songs for a Mad King always seemed too hectoring and over-the-top for home listening (though I bet it's astonishing live). I think the only other major works I have recordings of are the Violin Concerto (have the Stern recording and find the piece only intermittently inspiring) and the 5th symphony--of which I can remember nothing.

I'll give the symphony a spin tonight.

Hey, don't take my name in vain, no matter how right you are.

Al Moritz likes it so it must be crap!
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Al Moritz on May 04, 2007, 07:14:14 AM
Al Moritz likes it so it must be crap!

Hehe  ;)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: karlhenning on July 09, 2009, 06:27:45 AM
How nice to have as my first post on this board one on this composer.

I second Luke's strong recommendation of The Lighthouse. Also, his symphonies # 1 through 4, as well as # 6, are terrific. I don't enjoy # 5 yet.

I was lucky to obtain all my Collins recordings from Berkshire Record Outlet around the time they were discontinued, for $ 4 to $ 6 a piece.

I consider PMD one of the major composers of the second half of the 20th century, just a bit below the top tier. He does have some limits of gestural language, but these become evident only upon exposure to a wider range of his output -- and Carter and Xenakis have their limits too (... Al ducks for cover).

Al

Six symphonies, and I haven't heard one of them yet . . . .
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: not edward on July 09, 2009, 06:29:22 AM
Six symphonies, and I haven't heard one of them yet . . . .
I've only heard the Fifth. Rather Sibelian in tone, to my mind.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: karlhenning on July 09, 2009, 06:31:59 AM
I've only heard the Fifth. Rather Sibelian in tone, to my mind.

And, that's the one of the lot that Al does not (did not) yet enjoy . . . .
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Dundonnell on July 09, 2009, 07:11:56 AM
Six symphonies, and I haven't heard one of them yet . . . .

No, Karl, actually there are eight symphonies. The first six were recorded on the now defunct Collins label. I have these cds together with his Eighth-the 'Antarctic Symphony' of 2000-which I was lucky enough to be able to download from the composer's wonderful website(www.maxopus. com) before it had to be closed down after the arrest of one of the site's directors on a charge of defrauding £450,000 from the composer's bank accounts. Maxwell Davies's publishers say that the website will be reponed "shortly".
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: DaveF on March 05, 2012, 11:54:07 AM
It's good to see (at least for Maxists such as myself) that Naxos have just started re-releasing the old Collins recordings - Symphony no.1 just out and no doubt more to follow.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: kentel on March 05, 2012, 01:28:38 PM
I've only heard the Fifth. Rather Sibelian in tone, to my mind.

I wouldn't say that ; it's completely atonal, the sections are not clearly separated as they are in Sibelius's symphonies, on the contrary they are tightly interwoven. Rythmically it's much more complex too, with it's effects of slow massive waves which seems to progress at different speeds, and eventually crash into rocks or cliffs.

To me, PMD is a heir of Tippett, as is Birtwistle (and as are many composers, the genius and the influence of Tippett are underestimated, Segerstam and Lindberg too are a heirs of Tippett).
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: kentel on March 05, 2012, 01:37:33 PM
It's good to see (at least for Maxists such as myself) that Naxos have just started re-releasing the old Collins recordings - Symphony no.1 just out and no doubt more to follow.

Yes, good news ! PMD is one of the most talented living symphonists, and it's a shame that these symphonies and many other high-quality  recordings of his works (including the 10 wonderful Strathclyde Concertos) have remained 14 years out of reach.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: raduneo on March 25, 2012, 05:35:12 PM
Yes, good news ! PMD is one of the most talented living symphonists, and it's a shame that these symphonies and many other high-quality  recordings of his works (including the 10 wonderful Strathclyde Concertos) have remained 14 years out of reach.

Interesting. In what way do you feel that he is the heir of Tippett? If that is the case, I might consider exploring him! :)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: not edward on March 26, 2012, 05:08:19 AM
The reissue of the First Symphony on Naxos should now be available. I'll be picking it up when I next pass a local bricks'n'mortar place:

Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Lethevich on March 26, 2012, 05:41:02 AM
Re. that typography: iirc Maxwell is his middle name, not a double-barrel? I suppose it's neccessary for marketing, though - we already have a multitude of "Davis" and similar conductors. It's great to see that series belatedly available again :) I had been relying on mp3s until now.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: not edward on March 26, 2012, 06:07:30 AM
Re. that typography: iirc Maxwell is his middle name, not a double-barrel? I suppose it's neccessary for marketing, though - we already have a multitude of "Davis" and similar conductors. It's great to see that series belatedly available again :) I had been relying on mp3s until now.
It is, yes.

I think he's treated it as part of his surname since early in his career, though. Good marketing, as it sounds much more distinctive.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Kontrapunctus on March 26, 2012, 04:19:26 PM
I thoroughly enjoy his Symphonies, the Piano Concerto, the String Quartets, and his Piano Sonata. I guess I'm an idiot.  ::)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Mandryka on September 12, 2014, 09:12:46 AM
I'm about to put a copy of Edward Downes's recording of the 3rd symphony on symphonyshare. I think it's better than the composer's recording. Let me know of you want me to share it privately.

Can someone say whether the recording of Vesalii Icones by The Fires of London is worth buying?  It's rare and expensive. I have the one on Naxos but intuit that the music deserves better.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Maestro267 on September 27, 2015, 05:21:37 AM
I'm currently listening to Worldes Blis. A fascinating piece, and even more fascinating in its context as part 1 of a "hyper-symphony". The first section is very long (19 minutes). I like to compare that section of music to the sea. Not as a direct evocation of it, but the way that the music is constantly moving about, yet at the same time the progression through the different registers of the orchestra is slow. So the constant movement could be likened to the constancy and brevity of individual waves moving back and forth, and the overall slow progression of the section could be likened to the rising tide, which takes around 6 hours from its lowest to highest point.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Wieland on October 07, 2015, 11:25:04 AM
Peter Maxwell Davies - 10th symphony



Firstly, I have to say that up to now I only knew some early symphonies of Sir Peter and I did not like any. Grey and depressing they sounded to me. Now he came up with No. 10 and I was curious if his style had changed at all. It definitely has. This 45-minute work is very different from the one's I knew before.
It is half a symphony (mov. 1 +3) and half a cantata for baritone and choir (mov 2 +4). The topic of this symphony is the Italian architect Francesco  Borromini, who after a very successful career under pope Innozenz 10, fell out of favor under his successor, got depressed and finally committed suicide.
The symphony starts with a 15-min adagio that sounds not far away from those late adagios of Gustav Mahler maybe heard through the ears of Charles Ives. The two movements with chorus and soloist (the baritone is Borromini who laments his fate) are in an Orffian to Stravinskyan mold with some impressionism thrown in. So, this is a back-looking work that is not too challenging for the listener. For me it is interesting to note, how many 20th century composer late in life turn to the music of Gustav Mahler, e.g. Penderecki, Schnittke, Weinberg and now also Maxwell Davies. I am curious to know how Sir Peter's symphonies 7-9 are, to my knowledge not recorded yet.

As an add-on you get the short one movement 10th symphony of Andrzej Panufnik, which for me is like a late afterthought to Sibelius 7. The more often I hear this piece, the more I like it.

Good live performances, good price (at least in Germany).
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: vandermolen on October 07, 2015, 10:22:06 PM
It is, yes.

I think he's treated it as part of his surname since early in his career, though. Good marketing, as it sounds much more distinctive.
I must start calling myself Jeffrey Martin-Davis from now on.  8)

Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: snyprrr on November 05, 2015, 04:12:48 PM
I must start calling myself Jeffrey Martin-Davis from now on.  8)

wHAT ARE THE THREE WORKS???

What will convince me he's an utter genius? I think the library had some of those earlier Collins discs which ... eh, mm,... obviously not into the crazy vocal stuff,... all those Naxos Quartets would only interest me if someone reeeally convinced me,... in short, I have doubts,.... anyone??? vandermoldie???
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Mirror Image on November 05, 2015, 04:16:20 PM
wHAT ARE THE THREE WORKS???

What will convince me he's an utter genius? I think the library had some of those earlier Collins discs which ... eh, mm,... obviously not into the crazy vocal stuff,... all those Naxos Quartets would only interest me if someone reeeally convinced me,... in short, I have doubts,.... anyone??? vandermoldie???

Would certainly like to know myself, snyprrr. This composer is a blindspot for me and I'm quite into 20th Century Brits.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: snyprrr on November 06, 2015, 02:13:06 PM
Would certainly like to know myself, snyprrr. This composer is a blindspot for me and I'm quite into 20th Century Brits.

OK,... you're in charge of this one!! ;) :D ;D :laugh:.... "rabbit hole" an' all...
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: aligreto on November 07, 2015, 03:32:19 AM
My first introduction to Peter Maxwell Davies was through a performance of his "An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise" on the radio and which I also have heard performed live....


https://www.youtube.com/v/vkioMJJaz1I
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Maestro267 on March 14, 2016, 05:17:15 AM
RIP Max, and thanks for the music.

http://www.maxopus.com/resources.aspx (http://www.maxopus.com/resources.aspx)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Scion7 on March 14, 2016, 08:11:47 AM
80-plus years is a good run.  Sayonara, Sir Peter.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: vandermolen on March 14, 2016, 09:05:59 AM
Sad news.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: aligreto on March 14, 2016, 09:38:37 AM
I am sorry to hear that sad news.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: relm1 on March 15, 2016, 10:58:58 AM
Very sad news.  Perhaps the administrator could change the title to indicate (1934-2016).

I would like to share a personal memory.  Though I can't call myself a fan of too much of his music, I am a fan of the person.  When I was a young music student, he came to my home town to perform a world premiere of one of his many orchestral works.  An email to him was responded that he would like to invite me to the rehearsal and see my music.  I had the opportunity to sit in an empty auditorium watching him rehearse brand new music with the San Francisco Symphony which was very exciting.  After the rehearsal, he was covered in sweat and eagerly invited me to have a seat in his dressing room back stage.  He looked over my scores and sketches which I am sure would mortify me to dig up just what it was I showed him.  He was very kind and supportive but also sincere.  He told me more about the hard and uncertain life of composing and how one should pursue it only if there was no way to talk them out of it.  He was very humble and insisted I call him Max rather than Sir Peter.  None of the anger in some of his music was evident.  A Humble, thoughtful, purposeful, and very driven man.  Thanks for the advice and encouragement.  I never forgot meeting you to talk about MY music!  RIP.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: DaveF on March 15, 2016, 01:49:44 PM
Yes, one of the good guys, no doubt.  It would be nice to think that a few new (or even reissued) recordings will now appear - but who knows...
Today's listening:




I can remember hearing the 3rd symphony for the first time on the radio, having switched on a few minutes in and not knowing what it was, and being utterly gripped right to the end.  I still bang on, to anyone who will listen and many who won't, to the effect that the 3rd and 5th are two of the greatest symphonies of the second half of the last century.  Max bought me a drink once, but that's hardly unusual; he bought everyone a drink once.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Scion7 on March 17, 2016, 07:42:44 PM
Some of his chamber pieces are of interest:  The Piano Trio (A Voyage to Fair Isle), the Quintet for Brass, and his string quartet make for good late-late night listening, after your bird has gone to bed and the contemplative mood strikes.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: snyprrr on February 15, 2018, 08:24:38 AM
Would certainly like to know myself, snyprrr. This composer is a blindspot for me and I'm quite into 20th Century Brits.

Brass Music on Nimbus, perhaps?


still no closer to cracking open this nut...
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: kyjo on February 18, 2018, 10:48:44 PM
Rather unfortunately, the first works of Maxwell Davies I encountered were his Naxos Quartets nos. 1 and 2 and his Symphony no. 1, which I found to be grey, uncompromising, and frankly rather uninteresting works. I was delighted to find that he has a much more approachable, lighter side, as exemplified by his glitzy tone poem Mavis in Las Vegas and the touchingly simple Farewell to Stromness for solo piano. Can any members comment on whether his later symphonies are more approachable than the 1st? I have a feeling that they are.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Maestro267 on February 19, 2018, 01:45:21 AM
I struggled with the First too, and it's not one that's in my regular rotation by any means. I really enjoyed the Sixth Symphony, from 1996. There are videos on Youtube if you wanna get a flavour of them, but I personally find the later symphonies far more approachable.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: DaveF on February 19, 2018, 02:38:27 AM
It's sad to say, but Max seems to me to be a fairly uninspired interpreter of his own works, and I find it a pity that no other conductor has taken up the symphonies in a big way.  The only two non-Max recordings are Rattle's of no.1 and Downes's of no.3, both of which are favourites of mine (yes, I struggled with no.1 too, but repeated listenings at last made sense of it).  So my recommendations would be Downes in no.3, despite its dreadful boxy acoustic (OOP, but regularly turns up second-hand) and no.5 - conducted by Max, but on form in this one at least.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: relm1 on February 20, 2018, 07:47:57 AM
The Symphony No. 10 is very approachable and well performed I believe by the London Symphony Orchestra.  His ballets are good too.  I quite like the naxos release of the Carolyne Mathilda suites.  Piano Concerto is a big bold work with a rousing climax.  There is a lot of very good music in Max's oeuvre. 
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Mandryka on November 22, 2018, 12:28:58 AM
Anyone explored the quartets? What are the highlights?

(Feeling angry that they chased Synprrr away)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: relm1 on November 26, 2018, 05:52:11 PM
Anyone explored the quartets? What are the highlights?

(Feeling angry that they chased Synprrr away)

The Naxos quartets (2002-7) are fantastic.  Classical Review says this of No. 7: "I have recently listened again to Naxos Quartet No.7. This 53 minute work is worthy of Beethoven. Yes, I put it that strongly." here is the review: http://theclassicalreviewer.blogspot.com/2012/02/peter-maxwell-davies-naxos-quartets.html
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Mandryka on November 28, 2018, 09:44:55 AM
The Naxos quartets (2002-7) are fantastic.  Classical Review says this of No. 7: "I have recently listened again to Naxos Quartet No.7. This 53 minute work is worthy of Beethoven. Yes, I put it that strongly." here is the review: http://theclassicalreviewer.blogspot.com/2012/02/peter-maxwell-davies-naxos-quartets.html

I can hear that 7 has some good things in it and is well worth exploring, the composers remarks on the Naxos website are inspiring, thanks.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: schnittkease on November 28, 2018, 04:00:41 PM
I haven't heard the Naxos quartets in well over a year, but I remember them being consistently very fine.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: aligreto on December 23, 2018, 06:30:00 AM
Cross post from The Listening Thread


Davies: O Magnum Mysterium [Davies]


(https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/Ls8AAOSw241Yg2wG/s-l1600.jpg)


Davis says “The whole work is a meditation on the soprano solo heard at the outset - on the wonder and promise of the Nativity”. Sonically and texturaly this is an interesting work. The final organ fantasia, played by Simon Preston, is a set of variations on the “O Magnum mysterium” melody and is an intriguing and engaging piece of music in itself; it is somewhat dark, disconcerting and quite atmospheric.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: relm1 on June 03, 2019, 03:35:54 PM
I lament that Sir Peter Maxwell Davies isn't better represented on forums like this.  His fantastic website is dead (I just checked) and it was probably the gold standard of what a contemporary composers website should be like full of articles, recordings, program notes, news, etc.  Today, I get a "The connection has timed out" message when checking it.   :(  I will agree his output was inconsistent but he certainly deserves better than obscurity. 
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Mirror Image on June 03, 2019, 03:39:31 PM
I lament that Sir Peter Maxwell Davies isn't better represented on forums like this.  His fantastic website is dead (I just checked) and it was probably the gold standard of what a contemporary composers website should be like full of articles, recordings, program notes, news, etc.  Today, I get a "The connection has timed out" message when checking it.   :(  I will agree his output was inconsistent but he certainly deserves better than obscurity.

Well, at least, the Liszt website is up and running. 8)

http://www.lisztsoc.org.uk/ (http://www.lisztsoc.org.uk/)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Maestro267 on June 03, 2019, 10:29:32 PM
I lament that Sir Peter Maxwell Davies isn't better represented on forums like this.  His fantastic website is dead (I just checked) and it was probably the gold standard of what a contemporary composers website should be like full of articles, recordings, program notes, news, etc.  Today, I get a "The connection has timed out" message when checking it.   :(  I will agree his output was inconsistent but he certainly deserves better than obscurity.

Hear hear. That website was really great in helping me to understand a work like Worldes Blis a bit more, with its extended and detailed programme note, far more detailed than that which appears in the CD booklet.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: schnittkease on June 04, 2019, 01:31:22 PM
I lament that Sir Peter Maxwell Davies isn't better represented on forums like this.  His fantastic website is dead (I just checked) and it was probably the gold standard of what a contemporary composers website should be like full of articles, recordings, program notes, news, etc.  Today, I get a "The connection has timed out" message when checking it.   :(  I will agree his output was inconsistent but he certainly deserves better than obscurity.

I should revisit the Strathclyde Concertos -- I got much pleasure out of acquainting myself with the Naxos Quartets a few months ago. As far as Maxwell Davies' obscurity is concerned, I find that most people get turned off by Eight Songs for a Mad King and are not compelled to explore more of his (vast and progressively less modernist) output. It's a shame, and probably a similar story with Nørgård.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: foxandpeng on October 15, 2021, 03:29:20 PM
I won't pretend to know PMD's music well, but I'm really pleased to be revisiting what I do know, and acquainting myself with more.

PMD nay have dedicated this as a "a birthday gift for the Virgin"; but I'm enjoying it as an expression of nature that necessitates no divinity to acknowledge. The Primal chaos of the shifting Scottish seascapes with their unpredictable storms, calms and swirling waves, is enough. As a non-musician, I'm not able to comment on PMD's skill as a composer, but there is so much going on here! This is neither a short listen, nor one to undertake while doing other things  :)

Peter Maxwell Davies
Symphony #2
St Thomas Wake
PMD
BBC Philharmonic
Naxos


After the grand and powerful #1, described by PMD as "permeated by the presence of the sea and the landscape of this isolated place off the north coast of Scotland", turbulent, and rammed with multi-layered percussion, this symphony is equally worth hearing, in my mind.

Again the sea! Apparently, PMD says it speaks of 'the tensions set up by the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea “at the foot of the cliff before my window”.'

Whatever the inspiration or intention, I'm enjoying wrestling with music that is quite difficult at times, and needs lots of concentration.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: foxandpeng on October 30, 2021, 01:01:46 PM
Symphony #3
PMD
BBC Philharmonic
Naxos


Continuing to listen through PMD's work is something of a journey, I think. I don't find his writing easy, but there is something oddly compelling about the difficulty and the seemingly linear nature of what I'm hearing. I'm more used to clear structure in most of my listening rotation and exploration, so Maxwell's lack of statement/development/recapitulation can leave me pretty tired if I concentrate too hard.

For me, this is probably the most taxing of his symphonies so far. The opening movement starts slowly but gathers pace, with two central movements which maintain that, and then a conclusion that slows right down again. It isn't short at 57:28, and I still don't know the best way to approach it - close listening, or letting the music wash over me somewhat, with repeated plays fixing the key moments and sections in place over time. I want to get there with it, as there is so much energy and so much going on! I like it, even when I don't. I don't have access to liner notes, but reviews paint it as yet another sea scape, with rolling depths and unpredictable swells and turbulence. They're not wrong. My boat doesn't know if it is up, down, or ready to capsize!

I think I could learn to love this, but through hard won battles and not easy paddles.

PS... my wife hates it. I mean, REALLY hates it.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: relm1 on October 30, 2021, 04:31:33 PM
Symphony #3
PMD
BBC Philharmonic
Naxos


Continuing to listen through PMD's work is something of a journey, I think. I don't find his writing easy, but there is something oddly compelling about the difficulty and the seemingly linear nature of what I'm hearing. I'm more used to clear structure in most of my listening rotation and exploration, so Maxwell's lack of statement/development/recapitulation can leave me pretty tired if I concentrate too hard.

For me, this is probably the most taxing of his symphonies so far. The opening movement starts slowly but gathers pace, with two central movements which maintain that, and then a conclusion that slows right down again. It isn't short at 57:28, and I still don't know the best way to approach it - close listening, or letting the music wash over me somewhat, with repeated plays fixing the key moments and sections in place over time. I want to get there with it, as there is so much energy and so much going on! I like it, even when I don't. I don't have access to liner notes, but reviews paint it as yet another sea scape, with rolling depths and unpredictable swells and turbulence. They're not wrong. My boat doesn't know if it is up, down, or ready to capsize!

I think I could learn to love this, but through hard won battles and not easy paddles.

PS... my wife hates it. I mean, REALLY hates it.

No, he's not an easy listen.  His music is challenging but he has a wide range - you can find very dramatic music in his body of works but also playful works, some are very formal structurally, others toss out formal approaches.  If you like Henze, you should find much to enjoy in PMD.  The big regret I have is that his now defunct website featured tons of performance recordings that weren't commercially available.  I have a personal story to tell of him.  In the mid 1990's, I was a student and heard my local orchestra (San Francisco Symphony) would be performing the world premiere of a work of his with him conducting.  I emailed him and to my surprise, he generously responded and invited me to the rehearsal and asked to meet me after and see my scores.  He might have been the first high profile composer who took interest in me.  I told him nothing about my music, just that I aspired to compose.  He was so gracious.  He added my name to the security list so when I went to Davies Symphony Hall, security stopped me until I told them I was invited, then they found my name (provided by him) and allowed me in to a completely empty concert hall.  They were already rehearsing a work, I believe it was a Haydn Symphony based on memory.  Then switched to PMD's work.  It was complex but this was the first professional orchestral rehearsal I had ever attended.  The music was dense and nothing like I expected based on its evocative title.  There were moments of stillness which I greatly admired.  Immediately after the dense music ended, he turned around and looked for me and waved for me to approach.  I was so nervous.  I had never met someone who had been knighted before.  I understood I should call him Sir Peter and he immediately corrected me with his eye's closed, saying "Please, call me Max".  He was very sweety and invited me back stage to his guest room which was practically a hotel room in the back of the concert hall with a living room, bed, and bathroom.  He cleaned up and sat down with me so interested in hearing about me.  I was embarrassed to tell him, I'm just a student who had nothing played and only dreamed of writing music.  He silently read my music.  He had a very soft voice and asked me, "how badly do why want to write music?"  I had no idea.  I told him I'm obsessed with it and understand that I'm just a student.  He pointed out that my music was too ambitious for my skill but that wasn't bad.  He paused, then put the music down and looked me in the eyes and said "You know, being a composer is a very difficult path.  Are you sure this is what you want?  If there are other things you can do to make a living, choose that instead."  He wasn't at all being dismissive.  His advise lit a fire under me.  In my youth, I really understood him and nothing he could say would dissuade me.  He was a very generous and kind man who tremendously supported new music.  I cherish the time I had with him and regret no photos of this event, but it predated digital cameras.  In a way, he kicked me in to high gear and was a mentor to me.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: amw on October 30, 2021, 09:39:37 PM
One thing I do remember is that Max was present at a student composition seminar. One student was presenting his work and a couple of our regular lecturers made comments along the lines of, this sounds like a Vaughan Williams knockoff, are you concerned about developing your own style, etc. Max asked the student: were you really trying to imitate Vaughan Williams (or whoever it was) or is this how you genuinely prefer to write? And the student replied: this is the music I feel the most connection with, this is my style, I'm not intending to imitate or compete with any other composer. Max said: it's clear you have a great affinity for this style, everything is done very well, and there's no reason you shouldn't continue to compose in this manner for as long as that's what moves you. The regular lecturers did not bring up such stylistic objections to student composers' work for at least two or three seminars after the one Max had guest-hosted.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: foxandpeng on October 31, 2021, 11:16:16 AM
No, he's not an easy listen.  His music is challenging but he has a wide range - you can find very dramatic music in his body of works but also playful works, some are very formal structurally, others toss out formal approaches.  If you like Henze, you should find much to enjoy in PMD.  The big regret I have is that his now defunct website featured tons of performance recordings that weren't commercially available.  I have a personal story to tell of him.  In the mid 1990's, I was a student and heard my local orchestra (San Francisco Symphony) would be performing the world premiere of a work of his with him conducting.  I emailed him and to my surprise, he generously responded and invited me to the rehearsal and asked to meet me after and see my scores.  He might have been the first high profile composer who took interest in me.  I told him nothing about my music, just that I aspired to compose.  He was so gracious.  He added my name to the security list so when I went to Davies Symphony Hall, security stopped me until I told them I was invited, then they found my name (provided by him) and allowed me in to a completely empty concert hall.  They were already rehearsing a work, I believe it was a Haydn Symphony based on memory.  Then switched to PMD's work.  It was complex but this was the first professional orchestral rehearsal I had ever attended.  The music was dense and nothing like I expected based on its evocative title.  There were moments of stillness which I greatly admired.  Immediately after the dense music ended, he turned around and looked for me and waved for me to approach.  I was so nervous.  I had never met someone who had been knighted before.  I understood I should call him Sir Peter and he immediately corrected me with his eye's closed, saying "Please, call me Max".  He was very sweety and invited me back stage to his guest room which was practically a hotel room in the back of the concert hall with a living room, bed, and bathroom.  He cleaned up and sat down with me so interested in hearing about me.  I was embarrassed to tell him, I'm just a student who had nothing played and only dreamed of writing music.  He silently read my music.  He had a very soft voice and asked me, "how badly do why want to write music?"  I had no idea.  I told him I'm obsessed with it and understand that I'm just a student.  He pointed out that my music was too ambitious for my skill but that wasn't bad.  He paused, then put the music down and looked me in the eyes and said "You know, being a composer is a very difficult path.  Are you sure this is what you want?  If there are other things you can do to make a living, choose that instead."  He wasn't at all being dismissive.  His advise lit a fire under me.  In my youth, I really understood him and nothing he could say would dissuade me.  He was a very generous and kind man who tremendously supported new music.  I cherish the time I had with him and regret no photos of this event, but it predated digital cameras.  In a way, he kicked me in to high gear and was a mentor to me.

One thing I do remember is that Max was present at a student composition seminar. One student was presenting his work and a couple of our regular lecturers made comments along the lines of, this sounds like a Vaughan Williams knockoff, are you concerned about developing your own style, etc. Max asked the student: were you really trying to imitate Vaughan Williams (or whoever it was) or is this how you genuinely prefer to write? And the student replied: this is the music I feel the most connection with, this is my style, I'm not intending to imitate or compete with any other composer. Max said: it's clear you have a great affinity for this style, everything is done very well, and there's no reason you shouldn't continue to compose in this manner for as long as that's what moves you. The regular lecturers did not bring up such stylistic objections to student composers' work for at least two or three seminars after the one Max had guest-hosted.

These are both lovely anecdotes that give some insight into the man.

Difficult, interesting, dissonant music that will keep me busy for a while, I think.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Mandryka on October 31, 2021, 12:16:22 PM

Difficult, interesting, dissonant music that will keep me busy for a while, I think.

For me the difficulty isn't to do with dissonance, it is to do with structure -- I know the music is very highly structured but I don't hear it. The music seems to ramble. I've tried again with a couple of quartets, 7 and 2, prompted by you in fact, but no, I just didn't manage to get into the right frame of mind. I'll try again one day soon.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: relm1 on October 31, 2021, 05:34:25 PM
For me the difficulty isn't to do with dissonance, it is to do with structure -- I know the music is very highly structured but I don't hear it. The music seems to ramble. I've tried again with a couple of quartets, 7 and 2, prompted by you in fact, but no, I just didn't manage to get into the right frame of mind. I'll try again one day soon.

What are your thoughts on this work?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCeh6amXyYE (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCeh6amXyYE)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: foxandpeng on November 01, 2021, 06:35:57 AM
For me the difficulty isn't to do with dissonance, it is to do with structure -- I know the music is very highly structured but I don't hear it. The music seems to ramble. I've tried again with a couple of quartets, 7 and 2, prompted by you in fact, but no, I just didn't manage to get into the right frame of mind. I'll try again one day soon.
What are your thoughts on this work?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCeh6amXyYE (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCeh6amXyYE)


I agree that the challenge is less the dissonance than the structure. Dissonance is fine. I also have no grasp on PMD's approach to structure; I find the symphonies to be a linear journey into unpredictability, frankly, with no way to determine why PMD takes the music where he does. It seems chaotic to me, with no meaningful structural overlay. I suspect that is a lack in my own understanding of how this sort of music is put together from a technical perspective, so it is more challenging for me than it might be for others.

As for An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, I really like this piece. It is obviously far more accessible than the symphonies, and although not as immediately beautiful as Farewell to Stromness, has enough lyricism and attractiveness to be a welcome listening interlude :). PMD says it is unashamedly programme music:

“At the outset, we hear the guests arriving, out of extremely bad weather, at the hall. This is followed by the processional, where the guests are solemnly received by the bride and bridegroom, and presented with their first glass of whisky. The band tunes up, and we get on with the dancing proper. This becomes ever wilder, as all concerned feel the results of the whisky, until the lead fiddle can hardly hold the band together any more. We leave the hall into the cold night, with echoes of the processional music in our ears, and as we walk home across the island, the sun rises, over Caithness, to a glorious dawn. The sun is represented by the highland bagpipes, in full traditional splendour.”

;D
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Pohjolas Daughter on November 01, 2021, 07:59:01 AM
No, he's not an easy listen.  His music is challenging but he has a wide range - you can find very dramatic music in his body of works but also playful works, some are very formal structurally, others toss out formal approaches.  If you like Henze, you should find much to enjoy in PMD.  The big regret I have is that his now defunct website featured tons of performance recordings that weren't commercially available.  I have a personal story to tell of him.  In the mid 1990's, I was a student and heard my local orchestra (San Francisco Symphony) would be performing the world premiere of a work of his with him conducting.  I emailed him and to my surprise, he generously responded and invited me to the rehearsal and asked to meet me after and see my scores.  He might have been the first high profile composer who took interest in me.  I told him nothing about my music, just that I aspired to compose.  He was so gracious.  He added my name to the security list so when I went to Davies Symphony Hall, security stopped me until I told them I was invited, then they found my name (provided by him) and allowed me in to a completely empty concert hall.  They were already rehearsing a work, I believe it was a Haydn Symphony based on memory.  Then switched to PMD's work.  It was complex but this was the first professional orchestral rehearsal I had ever attended.  The music was dense and nothing like I expected based on its evocative title.  There were moments of stillness which I greatly admired.  Immediately after the dense music ended, he turned around and looked for me and waved for me to approach.  I was so nervous.  I had never met someone who had been knighted before.  I understood I should call him Sir Peter and he immediately corrected me with his eye's closed, saying "Please, call me Max".  He was very sweety and invited me back stage to his guest room which was practically a hotel room in the back of the concert hall with a living room, bed, and bathroom.  He cleaned up and sat down with me so interested in hearing about me.  I was embarrassed to tell him, I'm just a student who had nothing played and only dreamed of writing music.  He silently read my music.  He had a very soft voice and asked me, "how badly do why want to write music?"  I had no idea.  I told him I'm obsessed with it and understand that I'm just a student.  He pointed out that my music was too ambitious for my skill but that wasn't bad.  He paused, then put the music down and looked me in the eyes and said "You know, being a composer is a very difficult path.  Are you sure this is what you want?  If there are other things you can do to make a living, choose that instead."  He wasn't at all being dismissive.  His advise lit a fire under me.  In my youth, I really understood him and nothing he could say would dissuade me.  He was a very generous and kind man who tremendously supported new music.  I cherish the time I had with him and regret no photos of this event, but it predated digital cameras.  In a way, he kicked me in to high gear and was a mentor to me.
Did you continue to correspond/discuss your music with him at all after that time?

In any event, what a special encounter for you!  And so kind of him to look over your work and spend time talking with you!  :)

Currently watching that youtube video of An Orkney Wedding With Sunrise.  Quite amusing story and performance.  And was that whiskey or ginger ale that they were serving?! lol

PD
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: DaveF on November 04, 2021, 11:02:52 AM
Symphony #3
PMD
BBC Philharmonic
Naxos


If you can, do get hold of the Edward Downes recording of no.3.  The sound is fairly unattractive, the acoustic very boxy, but (to my ears) it makes much more sense of the piece.  (Downes takes 7 minutes less than Max overall, which may have something to do with it.)  It's not an easy disc to find, however - there are a few currently on eBay UK, but all from overseas with high postage costs.  I have similar feelings about Simon Rattle's much superior version of no.1, sadly - I say "sadly" because it seems to indicate that Max was far from being the best interpreter of his own works.  (I don't yet know Pappano's recording of no.10.)
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: foxandpeng on November 05, 2021, 04:27:59 AM
If you can, do get hold of the Edward Downes recording of no.3.  The sound is fairly unattractive, the acoustic very boxy, but (to my ears) it makes much more sense of the piece.  (Downes takes 7 minutes less than Max overall, which may have something to do with it.)  It's not an easy disc to find, however - there are a few currently on eBay UK, but all from overseas with high postage costs.  I have similar feelings about Simon Rattle's much superior version of no.1, sadly - I say "sadly" because it seems to indicate that Max was far from being the best interpreter of his own works.  (I don't yet know Pappano's recording of no.10.)

Ah, thanks for this, Dave. I will keep my eye out! I will also make it my business to hear the Rattle version of #1 over the weekend.
Title: Eight Songs for a Mad King, today at 2pm EST (7pm GMT)
Post by: Brewski on December 01, 2021, 08:29:08 AM
Just found out about this live score reading of Eight Songs for a Mad King, today at 2:00pm (EST, 7:00pm GMT) at the link below. The soloist is Julius Eastman, with the Fires of London, conducted by the composer. Afterward, other notable singers who have done the role will be in the chat, to talk about the piece.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tStW8vRDB_s

--Bruce
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: relm1 on December 07, 2021, 05:35:07 PM
I posted a reference of this work in the James MacMillan thread but had some curiosity about it as it was a pivotal moment in my life since Max was not only the first KBE (Knight of the British Empire) I ever met but also invited me as a student to the rehearsal of his world premiere.  I was the only one in the hall to hear the work come alive and watch the process before he looked for me and invited me backstage after the rehearsal to review my student music.   He was very gracious and extremely supportive but kept it real telling me this wasn't an easy path.  I will never forget him saying if there was anything else I could do to make a living, do that instead.  I didn't take it as warning me away but rather, support that if after all of this negativity you still want this, then you might be cut out for it.  I loved his gentle spirit and embrace of my failure.  I did not blow him away.  He still supported me and cared that I would persevere.  With that in mind, I enjoyed discovering this review of the work he was premiering that I was part of the rehearsal during that pivotal time in my life.

Waves of Greatness In Ode to Power of Sea / Davies tone poem dense and moody
Photo of Joshua Kosman
Joshua Kosman
May 9, 1998
Composer and conductor Peter Maxwell Davies is an elfin presence on the podium, but the subscription program he leads with the San Francisco Symphony this week is a weighty, fairly somber affair.

The program, introduced Thursday afternoon at Davies Symphony Hall, features the world premiere of "A Reel of Seven Fisherman," commissioned from Davies by the Symphony, as well as music by Haydn and Shostakovich. Taken together, the effect is of a musical memento mori.


Davies' new work, a 30-minute tone poem in three movements, sets the mood. Taking its title from a poem by the late George Mackay Brown -- like Davies a resident of the Orkney Islands, off the northern tip of Scotland -- the piece is a grim, awed tribute to the power of the ocean.




In Brown's work, seven fishermen put out to sea and six return; Davies' own close brush with drowning some years ago also helped shape "Reel." The result is like a version of Debussy's "La Mer" recast for the rugged and pitiless North Atlantic.

There are strains of plainchant woven through the musical texture, as well as faint echoes of Scottish dance music in the central movement. What is most striking about the piece, though, is its pictorial surface. Like the sea it conjures up so vividly, Davies' score changes course at unpredictable intervals, mustering huge, almost impenetrable masses of sound one moment and melting into shimmery woodwind rivulets the next.

The densely clotted texture is studded throughout with instrumental solos that lend color and provide landmarks amid the crashing waves -- a wailing clarinet (the powerful Luis Baez) in the first movement, or strong tendrils of sound from the violin of assistant concertmaster Jeremy Constant in the third.


Again like the sea, "A Reel of Seven Fisherman" is not easy to grasp at once; I can't pretend to have understood or appreciated all of its intricacies. But the dramatic power of the central movement is irresistible, and the spiritual glow of the concluding pages -- a serene string chorale punctuated by soft growls from the brass and an occasional percussion chime -- cast a spell.

The gravity of Davies' writing was foreshadowed before intermission by a powerhouse account of Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, with soloist Lynn Harrell giving a larger-than-life performance.

This is music of glorious, dark obsessiveness, and Harrell's playing caught the tone of it perfectly -- vigorous and robust in the two outer movements, marked by a throbbing lyricism in the slow movement, and combining both strains in a virtuoso account of the extended cadenza.

Unfortunately, Davies' limitations as a conductor showed up most clearly here, as he struggled simply to keep the beat in the face of Harrell's thrilling wild-man expostulations. Still, the concerto came through with most of its nervous brooding intact. Even Haydn was represented in a contemplative mode, by his Symphony No. 22, "The Philosopher." The subtitle stems from the intense slow movement that opens the work, a dialogue between two French horns and two English horns over a walking bass. Davies led a taut and (in the later movements) charming performance.


ORCHESTRA
SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY: The subscription program repeats at 8 tonight in Davies Symphony Hall. Tickets: $11-$73. Call (415) 864-6000 or visit www.sfsymphony.org.
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: foxandpeng on December 07, 2021, 06:31:07 PM
I posted a reference of this work in the James MacMillan thread but had some curiosity about it as it was a pivotal moment in my life since Max was not only the first KBE (Knight of the British Empire) I ever met but also invited me as a student to the rehearsal of his world premiere.  I was the only one in the hall to hear the work come alive and watch the process before he looked for me and invited me backstage after the rehearsal to review my student music.   He was very gracious and extremely supportive but kept it real telling me this wasn't an easy path.  I will never forget him saying if there was anything else I could do to make a living, do that instead.  I didn't take it as warning me away but rather, support that if after all of this negativity you still want this, then you might be cut out for it.  I loved his gentle spirit and embrace of my failure.  I did not blow him away.  He still supported me and cared that I would persevere.  With that in mind, I enjoyed discovering this review of the work he was premiering that I was part of the rehearsal during that pivotal time in my life.

Waves of Greatness In Ode to Power of Sea / Davies tone poem dense and moody
Photo of Joshua Kosman
Joshua Kosman
May 9, 1998
Composer and conductor Peter Maxwell Davies is an elfin presence on the podium, but the subscription program he leads with the San Francisco Symphony this week is a weighty, fairly somber affair.

The program, introduced Thursday afternoon at Davies Symphony Hall, features the world premiere of "A Reel of Seven Fisherman," commissioned from Davies by the Symphony, as well as music by Haydn and Shostakovich. Taken together, the effect is of a musical memento mori.


Davies' new work, a 30-minute tone poem in three movements, sets the mood. Taking its title from a poem by the late George Mackay Brown -- like Davies a resident of the Orkney Islands, off the northern tip of Scotland -- the piece is a grim, awed tribute to the power of the ocean.




In Brown's work, seven fishermen put out to sea and six return; Davies' own close brush with drowning some years ago also helped shape "Reel." The result is like a version of Debussy's "La Mer" recast for the rugged and pitiless North Atlantic.

There are strains of plainchant woven through the musical texture, as well as faint echoes of Scottish dance music in the central movement. What is most striking about the piece, though, is its pictorial surface. Like the sea it conjures up so vividly, Davies' score changes course at unpredictable intervals, mustering huge, almost impenetrable masses of sound one moment and melting into shimmery woodwind rivulets the next.

The densely clotted texture is studded throughout with instrumental solos that lend color and provide landmarks amid the crashing waves -- a wailing clarinet (the powerful Luis Baez) in the first movement, or strong tendrils of sound from the violin of assistant concertmaster Jeremy Constant in the third.


Again like the sea, "A Reel of Seven Fisherman" is not easy to grasp at once; I can't pretend to have understood or appreciated all of its intricacies. But the dramatic power of the central movement is irresistible, and the spiritual glow of the concluding pages -- a serene string chorale punctuated by soft growls from the brass and an occasional percussion chime -- cast a spell.

The gravity of Davies' writing was foreshadowed before intermission by a powerhouse account of Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, with soloist Lynn Harrell giving a larger-than-life performance.

This is music of glorious, dark obsessiveness, and Harrell's playing caught the tone of it perfectly -- vigorous and robust in the two outer movements, marked by a throbbing lyricism in the slow movement, and combining both strains in a virtuoso account of the extended cadenza.

Unfortunately, Davies' limitations as a conductor showed up most clearly here, as he struggled simply to keep the beat in the face of Harrell's thrilling wild-man expostulations. Still, the concerto came through with most of its nervous brooding intact. Even Haydn was represented in a contemplative mode, by his Symphony No. 22, "The Philosopher." The subtitle stems from the intense slow movement that opens the work, a dialogue between two French horns and two English horns over a walking bass. Davies led a taut and (in the later movements) charming performance.


ORCHESTRA
SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY: The subscription program repeats at 8 tonight in Davies Symphony Hall. Tickets: $11-$73. Call (415) 864-6000 or visit www.sfsymphony.org.

Outstanding. Thank you!

I am fascinated by PMD's music, despite almost always finding it immensely challenging. 'A Reel of Seven Fishermen' is a piece I need to explore!
Title: Re: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Post by: Maestro267 on December 09, 2021, 04:48:31 AM
I've never heard of it before. There's a bunch of PMD orchestral works that still need to be recorded and released. In 2009, at the Proms they performed another work of his, Roma Amor, which really impressed me and again, I'd love to see a recording of that.