Peter Maxwell Davies is universally acknowledged as one of the foremost composers of our time, and is currently Master of the Queen’s Music. His musical idiom has been described by The New York Times as a combination of ‘medieval mysticism, modernist rigour and happy accessibility’.
This fifth and final instalment of Maxwell Davies’s 10-quartet cycle commissioned by Naxos opens with Quartet No. 9, dedicated to Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw, mathematician extraordinary, and sometime Lord Mayor of Manchester, both of which attributes have influenced the content of the work.
The composer has written of Quartet No. 10, ‘in no way must this be a last quartet. I needed to leave the door open: I had enjoyed writing the Naxos Quartets so much, and perhaps even learned a thing or two, that more could, in theory, eventually flourish’.
“The Magginis sounds as if they've lived with the quartets all their lives, so assured and probing are the performances. They take the finely-nuanced rhetorical gestures of No. 9's opening movement in their stride, and lend a poignant lyricism to the 'Passamezzo'. A marvellous achievement all round.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2009 ****
“Little did we know, when Max was commissioned by budget label Naxos to write 10 string quartets, what a late flowering odyssey it would be, all his mature skills coalescing within the intense discipline of
Haydn-esque form.” Financial Times
“Cast in six movements and dedicated to Mancunian mathematician and politician Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw, the Ninth in Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's cycle of 10 Naxos Quartets is a 36-minute canvas of formidable rigour and accomplishment, positively Beethovenian in its fearless ambition, questing spirit and unremitting concentration.
The first two movements – a pugnacious Allegro and no less absorbing Largo flessibile – grow from the same seed and incorporate some frequently violent contrasts that hark back to childhood memories of war. Next come three shorter movements with a strongly burlesque flavour followed by a taut and driven finale.
Taking its cue from the Baroque suite but employing Scottish dance forms, the Tenth wears a more reflective demeanour, its emotional kernel comprising a central Adagio flessibile, which boasts some of the most probingly sincere inspiration in the whole series. The fifth and final movement suddenly stops in mid air – a deliberately inconclusive gesture. 'I needed to leave the door open,' explains the composer.
'I had enjoyed writing the Naxos Quartets so much, and perhaps even learned a thing or two, that more could, in theory, eventually flourish.' The Maggini perform with the no-holdsbarred commitment and jaw-dropping technical acumen we have come to expect from them throughout this massive project. Splendidly rich sound and a most truthful balance, too.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“The Maggini perform with the no-holds-barred commitment and jaw-dropping technical acumen we have come to expect from them throughout this massive project. Splendidly rich sound and a most truthful balance, too.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2008
“these are accomplished works belying the inaccessible reputation of so much contemporary music; No. 9 echoes the raw noises of the composer's Manchester youth, and the five-movement tenth carries a strain of mourning through its evocation of Scottish dance tunes.” The Guardian, 28th September 2008