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Maxwell Davies: Mass, Etc / Baker, Quinney, Et Al


Release Date: 06/08/2004 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67454   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Robert QuinneyRobert Houssart
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Peter Maxwell Davies, composer of Antichrist, writes two masses for Westminster in a year. Not exactly dog bites man, but news all the same. Newcomers to his work should start at the end of the disc, where the aching beauty of Veni sancte spiritus, written in memory of Max’s teacher Petrassi, should hook the wiliest old doubting trout. Commentary on this composer’s work has of late offered so much in the way of on-the-fly exegesis that it has seemed to smother the music itself. I followed the Strathclyde Concertos as they appeared, but the program notes, apparently written before the eighths and quarters had dried on the stave, often bore little relation to the sounds I heard. Here, Roderic Dunnett does a comprehensive job in the booklet of Read more this adroitly recorded, neatly sung disc. A few music examples would have been welcome, if only to identify the plainchant threads from which Max has spun these and most of his other works. But nothing here is scary on the surface, and most of these 66 minutes project the timeless, quiet majesty of cathedrals and the many generations of voices to have lived and died in the buildings and traditions of churches everywhere.

I’m almost ashamed of how far I am from being a Maxwell Davies newcomer. I knew St. Thomas Wake by heart at twelve, before I’d heard Beethoven’s Seventh, for example. Choral pieces like Seven Songs Home and Lullaby for Lucy are part of my permanent musical blood bank. They permeated my in-school work with kids and, I suspect, gave my daughter her name, too. I’ve seen Max empty halls, and pack them. I’ve always paid for my ticket, and occasionally wished I hadn’t. Once I fell asleep. Now he’s supposedly turned seventy, which must mean I am older than I was: impossible. The two masses — one straighter and for children’s voices, the other more piquant and scored for full choir and two organs — offer plenty in the way of meditation on mortality, but above all on the way music can help with all that, which is surely the point. There are many moments of disarming, mysterious, melodic beauty on the disc, more even than Max diehards will expect to hear: more Britten and Vaughan Williams than Boulez and Varèse. Veni creator, for solo organ, is as near as the disc gets to spikiness. Not much elsewhere is sprightly, but the depths and heights are real enough. Hell is just around the corner, as in the world. The other solo organ piece, Reliqui domum meum, will put that uncomfortable reality out of your mind however: one of the composer’s most successful evocations of solitary consolation among the ruins.

The real news, for Max and for music, is that all these works were composed in the last couple of years. Things are looking up on the contemporary, serious musical scene. I don’t want to go into more detail; I’d recommend this CD, strongly, to any music-lover who is moved by the sound of a choir and an organ in a cathedral setting.

--Paul Ingram, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1.
Missa parvula by Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Robert Quinney (Organ)
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2002; England 
Language: Latin 
2.
Mass by Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Robert Houssart (Organ), Robert Quinney (Organ)
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001; England 
Language: Latin 
3.
Veni creator spiritus by Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Robert Quinney (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2002; England 
4.
Latin Motets (2) by Peter Maxwell Davies
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2003; England 
Language: Latin 
5.
Reliqui domum meum by Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Robert Quinney (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996; England 

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