Maxwell Davies: Naxos Quartet No. 5; Naxos Quartet No. 6

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COMPOSERS: Maxwell Davies
ALBUM TITLE: Maxwell Davies
WORKS: Naxos Quartet No. 5; Naxos Quartet No. 6
PERFORMER: Maggini Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557398
Like Leopold Mozart (apropos the last three of Wolfgang’s Haydn Quartets), Maxwell Davies describes the Fourth and Fifth quartets of his nearly-completed Naxos cycle as ‘relatively slight’. Home in on ‘relatively’ rather than ‘slight’! With its two movement nocturnal seascape attuned to the pulsations of the lighthouses around Orkney and Shetland, the Quartet No. 5 weighs in at half the length of its six movement, late-Beethoven-imbibing sequel. But if one thing is becoming clear as the cycle emerges, Davies is truly the heir to that breed of long-limbed Adagio as located in Beethoven and ‘naturalised’ by Tippett. Both quartets are at their most persuasive in the lengthy slow movements which anchor their discursive, sometimes playful or tender, surroundings. Is this a creative response to the Maggini’s default mode sonority which is a natural and supple warmth? Whatever, there’s a humanity (less pronounced in the Strathclyde Concerto series) which is building a compelling cycle. And thanks to Naxos, a doubly ‘accessible’ cycle at that! Paul Riley