Magnus was a 12th-century earl of the Orkney Islands, a Viking unusual for his pacifism, martyred in a dynastic struggle. Peter Maxwell Davies' opera is a presentation of his story, based on George Mackay Brown's novel 'Magnus'. The Unicorn performance presented here is the only available recording.
"This hauntingly beautiful chamber opera is one of the finest of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's Orkney-inspired pieces (it opened the first St Magnus Festival there in 1977) and of all his stage works it seems especially well suited to recording. Certainly in the present performance, based on a staging that has toured extensively over the last two years, it grips from the very first moment, an unaccompanied vocal line emerging from silence and apparent darkness, and doesn't let go for the whole of the opera's 72-minute span... The performance is a fine one, splendidly paced and of powerful impetus; the recording is extremely clear, yet spacious and very atmospheric." Michael Oliver, Gramophone