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Maxwell Davies: Strathclyde Concerto No 2, Cello Sonata / Ceccanti, Canino, Italian Radio Symphony

Maxwell Davies / Orch Sinfonica Nazionale Della
Release Date: 04/30/2013 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8573017   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Vittorio CeccantiBruno Canino
Conductor:  Peter Maxwell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MAXWELL DAVIES Strathclyde Concerto No. 2. 1 Cello Sonata, “Sequentia Serpentigena” 2. Dances from The Two Fiddlers (trans. Ceccanti) 2. Little Tune for Vittorio in Maremma Vittorio Ceccanti (vc); 2 Bruno Canino (pn); Read more class="SUPER12">1 Peter Maxwell Davies, cond; 1 RAI Natl SO NAXOS 8.573017 (62:49) Live: 1 Torino 9/13/2006

Those who find the brilliant but sometimes outrageous existentialist works of the young Peter Maxwell Davies off-putting may be inclined to avoid this release. It is the second that explores the long and artistically fruitful friendship between the composer and the musical Ceccanti family. The first presented primarily early works, but these works date from his more mature period. The music is no less masterfully constructed or less concerned with emotional drama, but here the purpose to shock is no longer apparent. Two of the works even date from after Maxwell Davies was named Master of the Queen’s Music, an establishment title if ever there was one.

The change in the music coincides to his move to the Orkney Islands in 1970, a place which he has since described as his spiritual home. The islands’ isolated grandeur, the starkness, and the shifting aspects of the surrounding ocean have informed his later music, along with—among many interests—Scottish folk music, early 20th-century popular music, and liturgical chant. All of those influences are reflected here in some combination.

All are works for cello solo and all but the Strathclyde Concerto No. 2 are either dedicated to Vittorio Ceccante or transcribed by the cellist. Of particular interest is the Concerto, the first of the ten Strathclyde Concertos to make it into the Naxos catalog. These concertos for one or more instruments and chamber orchestra were composed for the Strathclyde Regional Council and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra between 1987 and 1996. They were all recorded by Maxwell Davies conducting the SCO for the now defunct Collins label. Naxos has licensed the Collins recordings and has announced the rerelease of the Third and Fourth concertos. Oddly enough, though, this is not one of the Collins recordings, being instead a live performance for Radiotelevisione Italiana conducted by Maxwell Davies in 2006. There are some executional flaws, as one would expect from a live recording of a single performance, but the abiding impression is of the warmth and concentration of the performance. The three-movement Concerto is lyric, passionate, rhapsodic, with slower tempos in the main, and offering a layered, chromatic tonality occasionally peppered with vehement, dissonant orchestral outbursts. Vittorio Ceccanti plays the solo line with rapt intensity and remarkable beauty of tone. One has to admire his endurance as well, as the 35-minute work rarely offers the soloist a chance to rest and, as one would expect from this composer, the music is technically as well as emotionally demanding.

The rest of the program is chamber music. The Sonata for Cello and Piano, “Sequentia Serpentigena,” was inspired by the stone carvings of snakes in early medieval rural churches in Tuscany. The Gregorian chant proper for Maundy Thursday, Traditor autem dedit eis signum , provides the basis for this musical study of the snake—at first as a symbol of temptation in Judeo-Christian tradition, and then gradually, through magic square transformations of several elements of the chant, it is made to reflect the composer’s response to other, very different traditions. Ceccanti is joined by Italian pianist Bruno Canino, whose sensitivity and imagination match the cellist’s, here and in the set of Orkney-Scottish dances taken from the opera for child performers The Two Fiddlers , arranged by the composer for violin and piano. Ceccanti transcribed the solo line for cello, and performs the work with touching artlessness. The short—barely over a minute—and charming Little Tune for Vittorio in Maremma concludes the program. The composer’s many admirers will want this release for the alternative view of the Concerto, as well as for the well-engineered world premiere recordings of the other works.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Strathclyde Concerto no 2 for Cello by Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Vittorio Ceccanti (Cello)
Conductor:  Peter Maxwell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987 
Little Tune for Vittorio in Maremma by Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Vittorio Ceccanti (Cello)
Written: 2008 
Sonata for Cello and Piano "Sequentia Serpentigena" by Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Vittorio Ceccanti (Cello), Bruno Canino (Piano)
Written: 2007 
The Two Fiddlers: Dances by Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Vittorio Ceccanti (Cello), Bruno Canino (Piano)
Written: 1978/88/2007 
Notes: Arrangement: Vittorio Ceccanti 

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