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Robert Matthew-Walker
International Record Review, January 2012

MAXWELL DAVIES, P.: Naxos Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 (Maggini Quartet) 8.557396
MAXWELL DAVIES, P.: Naxos Quartets Nos. 3 and 4 (Maggini Quartet) 8.557397
MAXWELL DAVIES, P.: Naxos Quartets Nos. 5 and 6 (Maggini Quartet) 8.557398
MAXWELL DAVIES, P.: Naxos Quartets Nos. 7 and 8 (Maggini Quartet) 8.557399
MAXWELL DAVIES, P.: Naxos Quartets Nos. 9 and 10 (Maggini Quartet) 8.557400

I have found listening to these ten quartets an absorbing experience, at the end of which I can only suggest that listeners explore them for themselves. The performances by the musicians for whom they were written and coached by the composer, are exemplary… © 2012 International Record Review




Penguin Guide, January 2009

MAXWELL DAVIES, P.: Naxos Quartets Nos. 5 and 6 (Maggini Quartet) 8.557398
MAXWELL DAVIES, P.: Naxos Quartets Nos. 7 and 8 (Maggini Quartet) 8.557399

The Fifth Quartet’s title refers to the sweep of the beam of the North Ronaldsay light, which moves from the beginning to the end of the two-movement work, and also to the different flashing ‘calls’ of lighthouses (so that mariners can identify any particular one). No. 6 is more ambitious in its six movements, the second and fifth of which draw on Advent and Christmas chant, and the first of a pair of Scherzos is a pizzicato. The Adagio turns into recitative towards the close. So there is plenty for Maxwell Davies aficionados to explore, even if the content is at times thorny.

The Seventh Quartet, intended to celebrate the work of the 17th-century architect Francesco Borromini, is a sequence of seven slow movements connected with seven of Borromini’s most impressive buildings. Haydn’s Seven Last Words come to mind, but Maxwell Davies’s music is far more intricate and complicated. The Eighth Quartet is in one movement and draws on Dowland’s Queen Elizabeth’s Galliard; it is described by the composer as an ‘Intermezzo’ in the cycle. Obviously the Maggini players have fully grasped this fragmentary writing and there is no doubting their identification and concentration. The Naxos recording is well up to the usual high standard on both discs.



Lawson Taitte
The Dallas Morning News, July 2007

Grade: A-

CHALLENGE: For the fourth of the five sets of quartets commissioned by the record label, British composer Peter Maxwell Davies has given us a toughie. The seventh of the 10 quartets is made up of seven slow movements – several quite long and all containing a quota of dissonance. The music was inspired by Renaissance architect Francesco Borromini's Roman churches, but even an Italian tour isn't going to get you very far into the music. You just have to listen, a lot.

CONFIDENCE: What will help is the fine playing of the Maggini Quartet, currently doing for British music what the Juilliard Quartet did for American music 50 years ago as it explores so much interesting repertoire. The eighth quartet – based on a John Dowland piece and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II on her 80th birthday – is more accessible (if only barely so).

BOTTOM LINE: One of the most enterprising projects of the decade draws to a close – and perhaps reaches its climax.



David Patrick Stearns
The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 2007

Although Peter Maxwell Davies is now a gray eminence among British composers, the 72-year-old former avant-gardist isn't relaxing a bit in this series of 10 string quartets commissioned by the Naxos label. Although all are based on a cabalistic system of composition somehow derived by magic squares, the early works in this series seemed not to meet the string-quartet medium on its own terms. Some of it came out sounding not merely dissonant, but nasty.

In these works, Maxwell Davies' intentions are heard more clearly - brooding and particularly full of enigmatic juxtapositions of voices, plus ghostly, poetic effects that make any given listening a new adventure. His originality is such that each of the seven (all slow) movements of Naxos Quartet No. 7 is based on a particular piece if classic Italian church architecture, but you can wonder at length about how the composer translated sight into such unlikely sound. The single-movement Naxos Quartet No. 8 is dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II on her 80th birthday, with more brooding, though with help from a John Dowland song written for the previous Queen Elizabeth. And with so much else going on in the piece, you can only listen and wonder - with wonder.



Elissa Poole
The Globe and Mail, June 2007

Magic squares and spirals, spaces designed by 17th-century Roman architect Francesco Borromini, and references ranging from Hildegard von Bingen's poetry to John Dowland, and from medieval motets to baroque ornamentation inspire (and determine) the shapes and details of Peter Maxwell Davies's seventh and eighth string quartets, the latest recording in a series commissioned by Naxos for the Maggini String Quartet. Best is the writing that rises almost out of earshot in the violin's highest register, and the play of formality and intimacy; less ingratiating is polyphony that lines up too smugly, and a certain unconvincing fragility that creeps into the Maggini Quartet's performance.



Chris Morgan
Scene Magazine, June 2007

Peter Maxwell Davis is known as one of the most prolific and celebrated composers of our time. That is why I found listening to this CD of his material so distressing. Was it his intent to create brooding musical behemoths which sound as if they are suffocating beneath the weight of their own morose melodies? These compositions are tense, morbid affairs, punctuated with shrill flights of violin which usher forth from the abstract structural motifs with startlingly irregularity. With all that said, an aficionado of Maxwell Davies music will likely find little fault with this recording. But all others should approach with caution.



Julian Haylock
Classic FM, June 2007

Volume three in Maxwell Davies's cycle of 10 quartets finds the Maggini Quartet playing with such nerve-shredding intensity one dare hardly breathe.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2007

The Fourth is the most extensive of Peter Maxwell Davies's newly commissioned series of quartets, its length exceeding fifty minutes and is cast in seven slow movements. The inspiration came from the 17th century architect, Francesco Borromini, whose buildings still play an important part of present day Rome. Davies had become fascinated by the structures while a student in Italy during the 1950's, and it was a visit to the city in 2005 that rekindled his fascination. Each movement is a picture not only of the seven different buildings, but views Borromini's ability to provide the illusion of huge areas in very small spaces created by the skilful use of angles and decoration. The sheer awe of the interiors has created timeless spans of music, mostly quiet and sometimes introverted. The copious notes from the composer that accompany the disc detail the buildings and are too extensive to relate here. Though technically the work is not challenging, such long spans where small changes if dynamic make a considerable difference are difficult to balance and control. The Eighth is dedicated to the 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth and is described by the composer as 'the Intermezzo in this cycle of ten works'. It uses as its basis John Dowland’s Queen Elizabeth’s Galliard, and though it has many shafts of bright light, it largely follows the restrained atmosphere of the Seventh, the original Galliard coming through the texture just before the work closes. The composer did have the advantage of knowing the premiere performance and recording would be by the Maggini, and with the composer's involvement in the performances we can take them as being definitive.



, April 2007

Following not long after the premiere of the ninth of the 10 string quartets that Naxos has commissioned from the Master of the Queen’s Music, this disc comprises a seven-movement, 54-minute work, and a single-movement one that is less than 20 minutes. The seventh recalls Shostakovich’s 15th quartet in being composed of slow movements, each in this case linked to a Borromini building in Rome, and offering itself as a metaphor (however arcane) for architecture. Naxos No 8, a somewhat less arduous affair, is dedicated to the Queen and derived in Davies’s abstruse way from Dowland’s Queen Elizabeth’s Galliard, suddenly made explicit towards the end.






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8:39:31 AM, 21 October 2014
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