Maxwell Davies and the string quartet

February 9 2014

Quartet movement: Allegro vivace 1952

String Quartet 1961 To Alexander Goehr

Little Quartets

  1. 1982 To Oriel Glock (In Memoriam)
  2. 1987 Reconstructed from 1977 sketches

Naxos Quartets 2002-07

  1. To Ian Kellam
  2. To Eric Guest
  3. Children’s Games To Giuseppe Rebecchini
  4. Lighthouses of Orkney and Shetland To Thomas Daniel Schlee
  5. To Alexander Goehr
  6. Metafore sul Borromini To Archie Bevan on his eightieth birthday
  7. To Her Majesty The Queen on her eightieth birthday
  8. To Kathleen Ollerenshaw
  9. To the memory of Fausto Moroni

Blake Dreaming String quartet and baritone 2010 Commissioned by Nicholas and Judith Goodison

Concerto Accademico String orchestra and string quartet 2012 Commissioned by Regia Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna and Stuttgarter Kammerorchester


Why this? I’m trying to get to know them.

I am starting with the seventh because of its affinity, via Borromini, with his tenth symphony, whose premiere I attended the other day.

Am also trying to get to know the third symphony (1984), which was inspired in part by the churches of Brunelleschi.

The seventh quartet has been criticised for being all slow movements, seven of them. That is its virtue. It is not overly Beethovenian, nor agitated and expressionist, nor minimalist, nor monotonous, nor funereal.

A big Roman work to parallel the seventh quartet and tenth symphony is the tone poem Roma Amor (1998), which I heard at the Proms several years ago.

This is all a way into Max that does not go via the Orkneys.

12 Responses to “Maxwell Davies and the string quartet”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    The third symphony, it must be said, is at the same time an Orkney seascape.

    A Manchester quintet: Alexander Goehr (born 1932), Harrison Birtwistle (born 1934), Peter Maxwell Davies (born 1934), Elgar Howarth (born 1935), John Odgon (1937-89).

    1934 (old post).

  2. davidderrick Says:

    Missing dedication in the first Naxos quartet? The dedication to his manager Judy Arnold was withdrawn for reasons that can be googled.

  3. davidderrick Says:

    The 1952 Allegro vivace is full of teenage energy.

    There is an Allegro vivace in the third symphony as well.

    There is a String Trio from 2008.

  4. davidderrick Says:

    When Max dramatises Borromini in his symphony with a baritone setting of his last testament, one thinks of operatic dramatisations of Renaissance, Reformation, Counter-Reformation minds and consciences: Pfitzner’s Palestrina, Krenek’s Karl V, Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler about Grünewald and his Die Harmonie der Welt about Kepler, Max’s own Taverner.

    I don’t particularly want to add Philip Glass’s Galileo here, but perhaps I should.

    And of Britten’s and Shostakovich’s Italian settings of Michelangelo and Henze’s of Bruno in Novae de infinito laudes.

    There’s no opera about Luther, but he is a protagonist in Karl V.

    Could Sessions’s Montezuma be brought in, via the mind of Cortés?

    Birth dates:

    Grünewald 1470

    Michelangelo 1475

    Luther 1483

    Cortés 1485

    Taverner 1490

    Charles V 1500

    Palestrina 1525

    Bruno 1548

    Galileo 1564

    Kepler 1571

    Borromini 1599

  5. […] to a recent post on Peter Maxwell […]

  6. davidderrick Says:

    BBC Radio 3 today: Max mentions that he is composing a string quintet.

    Postscript: It was premiered in Wigmore Hall on March 18 2015.

  7. davidderrick Says:

    I know it’s wonderful that he reached the hearts of the people with Farewell to Stromness. The trouble is, it’s a rather limited piece. When Max’s inventiveness is displayed in plain tonal light with not a magic square in sight, the result is not overwhelming.

  8. davidderrick Says:

    His string sextet The Last Island was first performed by the Nash Ensemble at Wigmore Hall on October 13 2009.

  9. davidderrick Says:

    A Military March for string quartet was first performed by the Sacconi Quartet at Wigmore Hall on March 3 2015. No 2: the first was for a different ensemble.

    He wrote of the first: “This work was written in February 2005 for Diego Masson and the Manson Ensemble of the Royal Academy of Music.

    “It is the first tangible outcome of a visit to Kneller Hall, the Royal Military School of Music, where, for the first time in my life, I became seriously aware of a whole world of music, with its own rules of composition, as strict as species counterpoint, sealed off, in many respects, from the outside world.”

  10. davidderrick Says:

    In the third Naxos quartet, he sets Michelangelo’s lines beginning Caro me il sonno, e più l’esser di sasso voicelessly in the cello: lines concerning his Roman exile from his home state, Florence, and criticising the “injury and shame” of the government there.

  11. davidderrick Says:

    His last work was one movement of an unfinished string quartet, opus 338.

  12. davidderrick Says:

    1952 Quartet Movement
    1961 String Quartet
    1982 Little 1
    1987 Little 2
    2002 Naxos 1
    2003 Naxos 2
    2003 Naxos 3
    2004 A Sad Paven for these Distracted Tymes
    2004 Naxos 4, Children’s Games
    2004 Musikgeschichte in einem Satz
    2004 Naxos 5, Lighthouses of Orkney and Shetland
    2005 Naxos 6
    2005 Naxos 7, Metafore sul Borromini
    2005 Naxos 8
    2006 Naxos 9
    2007 Naxos 10
    2015 Military March 2
    2016 Quartet Movement

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