Peter Maxwell Davies: Strathclyde Concerto No. 5; Strathclyde Concerto No. 6

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COMPOSERS: Peter Maxwell Davies
LABELS: Collins
WORKS: Strathclyde Concerto No. 5; Strathclyde Concerto No. 6
PERFORMER: James Clark (violin), Catherine Marwood (viola), David Nicholson (flute)SCO/Peter Maxwell Davies
The series of Strathclyde Concertos on which Peter Maxwell Davies is engaged (No. 10 already reached) is proving a remarkable feat of compositional virtuosity. The title refers to the enlightened action of the Strathclyde Regional Council in funding these works, all expressly written for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, each one with a different combination of soloists inspired by different leading players of that fine band.

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The skill demonstrated in the series is neither the neo-medieval expressionism of Davies’s early period nor the Orkney-produced nature Romanticism that followed, but a mature concentration on musical argument in the manner of the great Classical composers. The chosen canvas may be of restricted range, the palette limited in instrumental colours; but the sense of purely musical adventure seems that much greater for the discipline.

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On the Collins Classics disc the apparently slighter of the two concertos for flute, with a gentle tingle of glockenspiel and claves in the background , proves the more immediately diverting: the subject, concerning various kinds of play and playfulness, is developed with unfailing ingenuity and wit. No. 5’s sombre weave of violin, viola and string ensemble reveals its purpose more gradually, though the sinewy muscularity of the music is never in doubt. Excellent performances, recording warm and full. Max Loppert