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Maxwell Davies: Symphony No. 6; Time And The Raven; Wedding With Sunrise / Royal Philharmonic

Maxwell Davies / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Release Date: 11/13/2012 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572352   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Peter Maxwell Davies
Conductor:  Peter Maxwell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



MAXWELL DAVIES Symphony No. 6. Time and the Raven. An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise 1 Peter Maxwell Davies, cond; 1 George Mellwham (bagpipes); Royal P O NAXOS 8.572352 (76:16)


Like several of the Maxwell Davies symphony discs on Naxos, this one too was previously released about 20 years ago on Collins Classics. Some are better than others, but this one is a keeper. The Sixth Symphony Read more creates an unusual sound world, atonal to be sure but imbued with a lightness of texture and unusual shifts of meter that continually engage the listener and keep him or her tuned in to hear what comes next. The notes indicate that the symphony is built around a tune from Maxwell Davies’s overture Time and the Raven, written to honor the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. The somewhat brisk tempo of the first movement makes it sound like a scherzo, and the notes confirm what my ears hear. The second movement, beginning with an ominous timpani roll, is more serious and turbulent, suggesting to me some sort of eruption of the earth coming to the surface. A loud, faster, disruptive middle section only serves to reinforce my feelings. There are wonderful passages as well in the last movement where different brass instruments overlap and create an interesting tension. Rhythmically the last movement retains more consistency than the pervious two while thematically tying some of the “loose ends” together. Towards the end of the movement, trumpets and high strings (violins and violas) also overlap, this time with a more urgent tempo and at louder volume, nudging the symphony towards its conclusion. I must give praise to the Royal Philharmonic for its wonderful ability to immerse itself in this music and play it with such conviction. I’m sure it couldn’t have been an easy work for them to assimilate.


The symphony is thus followed by the piece it was based on, Maxwell Davies’s “celebratory” overture Time and the Raven. He cleverly intertwines an Aboriginal native tune, other folk melodies, and snippets from ersatz national anthems, written to sound real without offending anyone for having left theirs out (this according to the liner notes). Despite these allusions, however, this is a fairly complex piece, the only bit of humor being the ending in which—as in Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony—the players are instructed to stop playing one by one until only the section leaders are left.


But the most entertaining and accessible piece is saved for the last, Maxwell Davies’s popular An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise. Those who had trouble following the thread of the previous pieces will get a primer to understanding how Maxwell Davies’s mind works from this tuneful and popular piece, which has become a modern classic since its introduction in 1985. Allusions are made to “guests arriving out of extremely bad weather” in the opening section or the dancing of the guests which “becomes ever wilder, as all concerned feel the results of the whisky, until the lead fiddler can hardly hold the band together any more.” These moments show how splendidly Maxwell Davies can write realistic, or at least realistically evocative, music when he wants to, although for me personally it’s not quite as funny as his Mavis in Las Vegas. An excellent disc, then, in fact one of the finest in the Maxwell Davies series to date.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1. An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise by Peter Maxwell Davies
Conductor:  Peter Maxwell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; Orkney, Scotland 
2. Time and the Raven by Peter Maxwell Davies
Conductor:  Peter Maxwell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995 
3. Symphony no 6 by Peter Maxwell Davies
Conductor:  Peter Maxwell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 6: I. Adagio - Allegro
Symphony No. 6: II. Adagio non troppo
Symphony No. 6: III. Adagio - Piu animato
Time and the Raven
An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise

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