, October 2012
Naxos is in the process of reissuing the Peter Maxwell Davies’ symphonies…The First Symphony is on 8.572348, the Second on 8.572349, and the Third 8.572350. They’re all superb performances—conducted by the composer. He obviously approaches them from the inside and is totally in tune with their energy, vigour, resilience, subtlety and depths.
The performances do not attempt to advocate or make the case for Max’s music—however justified that might have been. Nor do they implicitly draw attention to the particular place which these expansive, arresting and wholly beautiful works hold in the repertoire…large scale symphonic ‘edifices’. Yet each symphony is a building where the ripples in the plaster and pointing—individual instruments’ colours… the woodwind and brass towards the end of the Fourth’s moderato first movement…for instance—are as important as the superstructure: orchestral form and development.
Texture is layered on texture; we are taken on a journey, almost, as everything evolves. The build up of timpani, pizzicato strings and brass at the opening of the same symphony’s second movement—an almost boisterous allegro…for example—is rich in stimuli, crisp, decisive, unyielding, self-assured yet is never sound for sound’s sake.
The Fifth…[is] in one movement, although the listener is aware of sectional divisions. The Fifth has a large percussion section, which works always to a purpose. Here it’s the Philharmonia Orchestra which admirably carries Maxwell Davies’ conceptions to fruition.
The acoustic—that of All Saints, Tooting—is spacious without swamping the orchestra. The re-engineering on the Naxos CDs is excellent; the resulting sonic breadth does these two expansive works full justice. The essay that occupies the minimal insert to the CD provides useful background and close but abbreviated analyses of each movement.
The performances lack nothing in immediacy, interpretative depth and considered nuance. These recordings are satisfying and enthralling as if they were indeed definitive. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review