Maxwell Davies: Suite from The Boyfriend

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COMPOSERS: Maxwell Davies
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Maxwell Davies: Suite from The Boyfriend
WORKS: Suite from The Boyfriend; Suite from The Devils; Seven in Nomine; *The Yellow Cake Revue (excerpts: Yesnaby Ground, Farewell to Stromness)
PERFORMER: Aquarius/Nicholas Cleobury; *Peter Maxwell Davies (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572408

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In these vintage examples of early-to-middle-period Maxwell Davies, his flair for popular dance-forms shines through his roguishly gaudy arrangements, made for Ken Russell’s 1971 film, of numbers from Sandy Wilson’s musical The Boyfriend (delivered here with much enjoyment by Aquarius’s line-up). Alongside this fun-of-the-fair stuff is the brooding chromaticism of Maxwell Davies’s searchingly individual take on medieval and Tudor polyphony, as in Seven In Nomine (1965) for chamber group. Decades after fashionable avant garde hype around a work like this has moved on, the music holds up superbly, proving (yet again) that there’s no substitute for concentrated thought articulated through strong-as-steel bone structure. The composer’s two personae come together in the score for another Ken Russell film, The Devils (1971), an exercise in visual excess even by this director’s standards; heard away from the immediate context, Maxwell Davies’s score seems to probe into parallel, darkly unfolding musical processes of its own. All these performances excel – and we also hear the composer playing two solo piano pieces from The Yellow Cake Revue, written for local performance in Orkney in 1980 as part of the islands’ (successful) resistance to proposed uranium mining. For some reason the record sleeve has managed not to mention the singer (surely mezzo-soprano Mary Thomas?) in the suite from The Devils.
 

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Malcolm Hayes