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The Classical Reviewer, July 2013

MAXWELL DAVIES, P.: Symphony No. 1 / Mavis in Las Vegas (BBC Philharmonic, Maxwell Davies) 8.572348
MAXWELL DAVIES, P.: Symphony No. 2 / St. Thomas Wake (BBC Philharmonic, Maxwell Davies) 8.572349
MAXWELL DAVIES, P.: Symphony No. 3 / Cross Lane Fair (BBC Philharmonic, Maxwell Davies) 8.572350

Naxos Records have started re-issuing the Collins Classics recordings of the first six symphonies [of Peter Maxwell Davies] made with the composer conducting. So far the first three have been issued and each has an interesting fill up work.

These wonderful symphonies are well worth getting to know even if at first you find the musical language difficult to understand. They will reward amply with repeated listening. © 2013 The Classical Reviewer Read complete review

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, December 2012

One hesitates to use the word ‘authoritative’, but the latter series—conducted by the composer himself—certainly qualifies. Factor in very good modern recordings and fine playing and it seems that Naxos are on to another winner.

With a strong narrative, unexpected, ear-pricking touches and—in the Vegas piece—a twinkle in its eye, there’s much to tease and please in these scores.

Great fun; a reminder of the composer’s relaxed, more genial side. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

MusicWeb International, October 2012

…Maxwell Davies’s orchestral colourisation is always inspired and evocative of the dramatic seascapes of his home on Orkney…the First is vivid in its modernistically-inclined representation of the flows, sounds and firths that surround the islands. The work as a whole becomes more accessible and alluring with every reacquaintance.

The BBC Philharmonic in the safe and authoritative hands of Maxwell Davies himself give a good, solid performance of what is a rather demanding work for musicians too.

Sound quality in both recordings is fairly good…The composer’s own booklet notes are intelligent and interesting, especially where he relives his experience as ‘Mavis’. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, October 2012

Maxwell Davies’s First Symphony comes from 1976, back in the heady years of Eight Songs for a Mad King. Maxwell Davies’s world is one where impressions of the moment have a direct and visceral impact, almost stream of consciousness, from what sounds like an evolving melody to a sudden and jagged halt as his gaze turns from field to ragged coast.

Mavis is a sort of joke based on Las Vegas operators unable to understand his name when he was on tour with the BBC Philharmonic in the states. The piece is a thirteen-minute tone poem that goes out of its way to describe the garish and over-the-top cultural experience that is Las Vegas.

This is a re-release of two…issues from 1995 and 1998. Both are recorded in lively and detailed sound, the performances excellent. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, September 2012

Peter Maxwell Davies’s Symphony No. 1…starts out very interestingly, with a highly dramatic, well-crafted yet surprising first movement…

Mavis in Las Vegas is a much later work…The composer, playing a mental game of transference, explains that he imagined Mavis as “all outrageous flounces and hip-jerks, her generous ball gown streaming, descending a magnificent (pink!) curved staircase into the gambling area.” But of course Mavis has much more mischief on her mind; she visits an Elvis shrine, then Caesar’s Palace, “where a huge central fountain…boasts not only magnificent water displays but moving Classical statues which intone platitudes with Shakespearean accents.” All of this is neatly and quite comically captured in the score, certainly one of the most delightful that Maxwell Davies has ever written, which is a somewhat disguised theme and variations. And needless to say, with the composer conducting, it is a delightful performance. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Audiophilia, May 2012

Maxwell Davies recorded his Symphony No. 1 with BBC Philharmonic in the 1990s and the recording was originally released on Collins Classics. It is a large scale piece encompassing Maxwell Davies’s inspiration from living in the Orkneys and conveys the wildness of the abandoned crofts and landscape.

The work grew from its original conception and now spans nearly 55 minutes of music. The symphony is an important statement from one of Britain’s finest living composers and fully deserves to be heard, so full marks to Naxos for reissuing it coupled with the very enjoyable piece Mavis in Las Vegas, so named because of a mix up in Maxwell Davies’s name by a desk clerk in the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel who checked him in as Mavis. It is a thoroughly enjoyable romp in the style of his other works in this style, like the Foxtrot for Orchestra, and offers a contemporary musical take on the Las Vegas scene painted by full orchestra. © 2012 Audiophilia Read complete review

Cinemusical, April 2012

Harmonic structures in [Davies’s first symphony] provide interesting anchors as the piece proceeds…the work has this sense of evolution that lends the impression that it is coming to life in the present. It is a feeling one gets even into the final moments of the piece.

The Symphony No. 1…shifts fascinatingly between sections of the orchestra with often intriguing color results. The slower sections of the work are quite emotionally intense and even more so when Davies moves toward seeming harmonicre solutions or strongly major-sounding material. The opening presto and slow third movement are both sufficiently constructed to maintain interest and the ending of the third movement would be an interesting conclusion.

The sound and performances are really stellar and allow for a look into early and late work by Davies all in one place. © 2012 Cinemusical Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2012

Following Naxos’s commission to compose ten string quartets, the label now brings back into the catalogue the symphonies of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The London Philharmonic Orchestra asked him for a work back in 1973, but having written a single movement score, the music refused to end, slowly growing into three more movements of his First Symphony lasting around fifty-five minutes. In content it reflects the bleak vista of the north east coast of Scotland and his home on the Isle of Orkney. Often quite brutal and hard hitting, it is a score that does not ask you to love it, and you will probably take time to come to terms with a very personal musical language that most would describe as atonal. I have over the years greatly admired the score, though, like me, you might find an initial entry point by first going to the busy Presto finale. There could be no greater contrast than Mavis in Las Vegas, Mavis being the composer, the idea coming out of his visit with the BBC Philharmonic for concerts in America’s gambling mecca. Davies paints, in the most popular style of music, the impression made by his visit there, the reason for him becoming ‘Mavis’ related in the accompanying booklet. The symphony is extremely difficult to perform, though you would not think so in this totally committed performance from the BBC Philharmonic conducted by the composer, the recording dating from 1994 when the orchestra was at the peak of its golden era. They are no less persuasive in the coupling, switching to the popular music style to the manner born. Available for a brief period on the Collins label, the superb sound comes from BBC Manchester’s recording team. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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