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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



Andrew Achenbach
Gramophone, December 2008

A gripping final instalment in Max’s Naxos odyssey

Cast in six movements and dedicated to Mancunian mathematician and politician Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw, the Nonth in Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s cycle of 10 Naxos Quartets [Nos 1 & 2 - 8.557396, Nos 3 & 4 - 8.557397, Nos 5 & 6 - 8.557398, Nos 7 & 8 - 8.557399] is a 36-minute canvas of formidable rigour and accomplishment, positively Beethovenian in its fearless ambition, questing spirit and unremitting concentration. The first two movements—a pugnacious Allegro and no less absorbing Largo flessibile—grow from the same seed and incorporate some frequently violent contrasts that hark back to childhood memories of war. The composer writes in the booklet of “the popular music of the 1940s, whose contours and rhythms are echoed, as are also the raw sounds of wartime Manchester that I heard as a small boy and associated with that music—air-raid sirens, the ‘glissandi’ of falling bombs, the tearing apart of crashing buildings—but all reinterpreted, sublimated and disciplined within terms of the string quartet”. Next come three shorter movements with a strongly burlesque flavor (“almost an independent miniature quartet within a quartet”) followed by a taut and driven finale.

Taking its cue from the Baroque suite but employing Scottish dance forms, the Tenth wears a more reflective demeanour, its emotional kernel comprising a central Adagio flessibile, which boasts some of the most probingly sincere inspiration in the whole series. The fifth anf final movement suddenly stops in mid-air—a deliberately inconclusive gesture. “I needed to leave the door open,” explains the composer. “I had enjoyed writing the Naxos Quartets so much, and perhaps even learned a thing or two, that more could, in theory, eventually flourish.”

The Maggini perform with the no-holds-barred commitment and jaw-dropping technical acumen we have come to expect from them throughout this massive project. Splendidly rich sound and a most truthful balance, too. Apparently, Rubbra and Jacob are next in line for the Maggini treatment—and I for one can hardly wait.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2008

A record label commissioning ten string quartets was a unique event, and it has been rewarded by one of the most important cycles since the quartets of Bartók.

In his younger years the music of the British composer Peter Maxwell Davies showed a fiercely expressionistic style within the realms of atonality modernity. Now enjoying an Indian Summer all of his mature skills have been distillated into music that yields more rewards with each repeated hearing. True, the large-scale Ninth in six movements is more wedded to atonality then anything that has gone before in this cycle. The work is framed by two jagged Allegros of considerable force, the slow and disjointed thematic material used in the slow movement and the ghostly apparitions that flit through the third being characterised by wide mood swings. It is technically demanding music, and, as I have written before, the detailed performances of the Maggini Quartet are the obvious result of meticulous preparation. In his programme note the composer writes that he did not wish his Tenth to close the door on further works in the genre. Here he uses material from Scottish Dances, but, as with the Ninth, they often appear in ghostly form. There is a particularly beautiful second movement that opens with a pensive viola melody, and he does allow himself a farewell in the central Adagio. The five movements conclude with a joyous but distorted hornpipe, and ends in mid air with no double bar line to close the score. I hope Naxos take note that there could be more to come from the septuagenarian. The sound quality, as throughout the cycle, is unfailingly realistic.






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6:36:48 PM, 25 December 2014
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