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Symphony No. 2 / St. Thomas Wake, Foxtrot for Orchestra CD

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Universally acknowledged as one of the foremost composers of our time, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has made a significant contribution to musical history through his wide-ranging and prolific output. He lives in the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland, where he writes most of his music. In a work list spanning more than five decades, he has written across a broad range of styles, yet ... Read more in Amazon's Peter Maxwell Davies Store

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Symphony No. 2 / St. Thomas Wake, Foxtrot for Orchestra + Maxwell Davies: Symphony 1 / Mavis In Las Vegas + Maxwell Davies: Symphony No. 3/ Cross Lane Fair (Naxos: 8.572350) (Mark Jordan/ Rob Lea/ BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/ Peter Maxwell Davies)
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Product details

  • Orchestra: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Peter Maxwell Davies
  • Composer: Peter Maxwell Davies
  • Audio CD (30 April 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,814 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Symphony No. 2: I. Allegro molto - AllegroBBC Philharmonic Orchestra16:50Album Only
Listen  2. Symphony No. 2: II. AdagioBBC Philharmonic Orchestra16:07Album Only
Listen  3. Symphony No. 2: III. Allegro molto, leggieroBBC Philharmonic Orchestra 9:25Album Only
Listen  4. Symphony No. 2: IV. Adagio, flessible - Poco piu mosso - Piu mosso - Moderato - AllegroBBC Philharmonic Orchestra13:17Album Only
Listen  5. St. Thomas WakeBBC Philharmonic Orchestra20:31Album Only

Product Description

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Second Symphony is his ‘Sea Symphony’, a complex, virtuosic work that explores in absorbing, increasingly dynamic fashion, the ocean’s proximity and what the composer calls ‘the architecture of its forms’. Both themes and orchestration are masterly. The percussion section is richly voiced, adding considerably to the symphony’s very particular, rugged and varied sound world. St Thomas Wake, by contrast, is a disquieting but bravura exercise in parody, evoking memories of the composer’s experiences during the Second World War.

Sir Peter Maxwell Daviesis a leading symphonist and this particular work is a rugged, powerful example of how he has absorbed the influence of, say, Sibelius to generate his own sense of sound, motion and energy. As with the companion work, the sardonic, parodic St Thomas Wake, this is an ex-Collins recording, and it received excellent reviews when first released in 1994, though back then these two works were not coupled together.

Universally acknowledged as one of the foremost composers of our time, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has made a significant contribution to musical history through his wide-ranging and prolific output. He lives in the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland, where he writes most of his music.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nobody TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Aug 2012
Format: MP3 Download Verified Purchase
The record label Collins origninally recorded these works along with manty other Maxwell Davies works. The loss of that label had been Naxos's gain as they continue to reissue much of their catalogue. I'm not convinved by all Maxwell Davies' symphonies though Nos 2 and 5 are unquestionable masterpieces to me and I like the Sixth too.

This finely recorded performance of the Second is a treat. It is inspired by the seascape around the Orkneys but the descriptions of observing patterns of movement by the composer shouldn't put you off with their hints at abstraction rather than scene painting. This is a long symphony that has the abstract formal sense to hold together from beginning to end but does have a pictorial element.

The symphony, in four movements, includes a dramatic opening movement, scintillating scherzo and a rich slow movement. The finale acts as a big summing up with a masterful acceleration from a slow march opening before coming to a quieter conclusion.

Tightly organised as the symphony is it is one of his most sumptuously orchestrated works where the percussion glitters like glistening sunlight on the waves. There's plenty that is dark and dramatic but it is never allowed to overwhelm the balance of the work. It's a wonderful work that celebrates not just the sea but the symphonic legacies of both Sibelius and Vaughan Williams.

St Thomas Wake dates from the late 1960s and combines his more expressionistic musical language with foxtrots and other popular music of the 1940s. It might seem like light relief after the epic symphony but has a biting sardonic edge. It lasts about twenty minutes and its bite prevents it from becoming a nostalgic ball of fluff or light comedy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Black Glove on 16 Jun 2012
Format: MP3 Download
I'm liking these long and deeply abstract symphonies composed and conducted by Peter Maxwell Davies, performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, re-released on Naxos... Symphony No.2 has a surging and sublime quality which will appeal to those who have a fondness for twisty symphonic escapades. The sound-world transports the listener to places both naturalistic and mythical. There's a harsh realism here, yet also a dreaming-eye that perhaps wants more mystery. All in all the symphony is a subtle creation: solitude strikes out with serious swipes while a flowing variety stimulates the senses. - The tone poem "St. Thomas Wake" is a tricksy work which invokes Gershwin-esque shenanigans yet remains avant-garde in essence.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I am not completely convinced quite yet 21 Oct 2012
By G.D. - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Peter Maxwell Davies's music has raised controversy for half a century, and it is not likely to stop very soon. He rose to fame with radical - and frankly often gimmicky - avant-garde radicalisms; yet when he started his cycle of symphonies he once more surprised his critics. That is not to say that the second symphony, for instance, is in any way reactionary or "non-modern". It is nevertheless a large-scale work with a classical "feel" to it, and one that clearly continues and develops a tradition rather than rejecting it. Indeed, it is almost surprising to discover how much the second symphony sounds characteristically British, inhabiting the same sound world as the music of Britten or Robert Simpson, though the language is grittier and more modern, incorporating avant-garde tricks and textures.

The work was hailed as a masterpiece by the reviewers in Gramophone when this release first arrived (it is a reissue of a 1994 Collins release), but then Gramophone seems to hail virtually any major work by a contemporary British composer as a masterpiece. I have to admit that I am less enthusiastic. It is a large-scale work in four movements, inspired by the sea (of course), and the composer apparently put down a lot of work trying to incorporate wave forms into the symphony. There is little by way of thematic material, but the music is inventive enough to manage - though sometimes barely - to hold the listener's attention throughout its substantial duration, despite stretches that strike one as somewhat meandering (I admit that this may in part be this listener's fault, for figuring out the heads and tails of Maxwell Davies's ideas require a bit of concentration).

As coupling we get the 20-minute St. Thomas Wake from 1969, and is the kind of ironic work one usually associates with (at least the earlier works of) the composer. It casts a band sitting beside the orchestra, producing a series of clichéd foxtrot and tango snippets to which the orchestra makes commentaries and eventually engulfs - though it sounds jocular and funny at first, one realizes after some time that it is a rather serious work (the composer describes it as reflecting childhood memories from World War II). It might be effective in the concert hall. As a purely auditory experience it sounds terribly dated, however, and rather trite. Its value, if any, lays - as so often with Maxwell Davies's earlier works - with the metacommentary and allegorical qualities of the idea, and not with the musical material or development of the music per se.

In any case, the performances are probably as good as one could hope for. The BBC Philharmonic seems to be up to the challenge, and with the composer himself at the helm what we get is presumably authoritative. The sound is good, though perhaps marginally less full than one could have wished. The notes on the symphony, written by the composer, are not ideally helpful, but Stephen Pruslin's notes on St. Thomas Wake are excellent. Overall, however, I am a little unsure how I would rate this disc. I still have qualms about the music, and while the symphony is certainly worth the effort the coupling is probably not. Recommended with some rather substantial reservations.
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