A moment of levity with Max and the Maggini Quartet.
Engineer Eleanor Thomason from K&A Productions.
Composer Max 'pouring' over the score.
|ENGLAND: On 30
September and 1-2 October, the
joined forces with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and a recording team from
K&A Productions to record Naxos Quartets Nos. 1 and 2. The
first two instalments in a cycle of ten quartets commissioned by Naxos,
the works debuted last fall (Quartet No.1) and this summer (Quartet
No. 2); the project has created an exciting opportunity for composer
and ensemble to collaborate over an extended period of time to bring an
entire cycle to life.
Second violinist David Angel reflects on his experiences at the
to admit that I felt a certain apprehension on the way to Potton Hall
Suffolk for our first Maxwell Davies recording. This
was to be the first of five recordings over the next
record the ten 'Naxos' quartets which Sir Peter or Max, as he is called
friends, is writing for us. We were to
record the first two, both huge works with passages of extreme
challenge the Quartet both severally and individually.
Max would be present at the recording and
this was another reason for my initial nervousness.
This had nothing to do with playing his works
to him. We had had two very intensive
days on each quartet with the composer: one private, followed by a
workshop at Christchurch College, Cantebury, organised by their head of
Grenville Hancox. We already know Max
pretty well, and are sure of his musical intentions.
So why was I worried?
has been a certain ritual to our recordings which has worked very well. We begin on the first morning by setting the
sound and balance. This can take
anything up to three hours and involves tremendous work on the part of
and A team, producer Andrew Walton and engineer Eleanor Thomason. When we are all satisfied with this, we will
perform a complete movement, and then listen to it like four ruthless
critics. At this point we will return to
the studio and work through the movement, generally performing another
take, and doing large sections in order to put down our best possible
performance. In doing this, we rely upon
the ear and judgement of our producer, Andrew Walton.
He is a very fine musician with 'eagle' ears
and we trust him completely. But how
will he react to having the composer present? Will it inhibit him in
way? I needn't have worried.
Andrew may have prefaced some of his comments
with: “Do say if you disagree Max,
but ...”. Most
of the time, Max kept serenely in the background,
very pertinent suggestions but never contradicting the producer. Having composed the quartets and worked upon
them very thoroughly with us, I think
that Max felt that his work was done and that he should let the
its course. For the Quartet, however, it
was both wonderful and reassuring to have him present.
end of each evening, when we had played ourselves into exhaustion, we
go to one of the may fine hostelries near Potton Hall and enjoy a
sociable and amusing meal together: the perfect way to unwind and to
ever better acquainted. My abiding
memory, however, will be of recording whole swathes of the marvellous 2nd quartet with
Max sitting silently in the hall
with us, pouring over his score. Moments
like that remind one just how extraordinary this project is.
The quartets will be
debuted and recorded at a rate of two per year through 2007.
For more information:
The Maggini Quartet Website
MaxOpus: The Official
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies