COMPOSERS: Peter Maxwell Davies
PERFORMER: Della Jones, Christopher Robson, Martyn Hill, Neil Jenkins, Henry Herford, Gerald Finley; BBC Philharmonic/Peter Maxwell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 70342 DDD
During the Sixties and early Seventies, Peter Maxwell Davies was the iconoclast of British music, much as Ken Russell was for film or Joe Orton was for drama. A seething anger against all forms of authority and dogma blazed through his music, expressed in vicious parodies of hallowed musical conventions. Then in the Eighties a new sober Maxwell Davies emerged, writing lean, dark-hued symphonies and a long series of concertos.
Resurrection, first conceived in the Sixties, was put on ice. But when, in the Eighties, Maxwell Davies returned to the score, the anger resurfaced. The targets are many: the Church, politicians, big business, polluters of the environment, homophobes, the banality of TV commercials; anything, in fact, that cajoles or browbeats the individual into conformity. These forces are personalised as four ‘surgeons’ who set work to transform a hapless ‘dummy’. But the operation backfires, and the patient is resurrected as the Antichrist, who threatens to liquidate ‘all those who won’t agree to love the new-found order, and turn their well-tuned hate/On all that question the merciful laws of my consumer-friendly State.’ The jog-trot rhythms of these lines are found throughout the libretto (written by the composer himself) and, despite the satirical verve, one does start to long for variety of rhythm and tone. Much the same could be said of the music. After a while, the barrage of grotesque parodies of hymns, brass bands, commercials, all piled one upon the other, has a desensitising effect – especially when performed with such grim relish as here (the singer in the rock band, Mary Carewe, is especially fine). This is ironic, given that it’s the brutalisation of individuals by impersonal forces that Maxwell Davies is supposed to be pleading against. Ivan Hewett