Maxwell Davies: Le jongleur de Notre Dame

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COMPOSERS: Maxwell Davies
WORKS: Le jongleur de Notre Dame
PERFORMER: Edward Albert (baritone) Opera Sacra Buffalo/Charles Peltz Arditti Quartet
Le jongleur de Notre Dame is a Seventies’ piece, a ‘masque for mime-juggler, baritone, instrumental ensemble and children’s band’, written in 1978 for the St Magnus Festival that Davies founded in Orkney. Though not a major landmark in his development, it is a good example of his ability to produce works for adult and young performers that manage to be both entertaining and serious, approachable and never patronising. The fill-up, however, is strange and fascinating – a tiny string-quartet movement, written while Davies was a student at Manchester University, which shows the diversity of his interests at that time. There are hints of Bartók in the use of modes, but also of the rhythmic procedures of Indian music, and nothing of the serial procedures that would dominate his music just a few years later. Andrew Clements