Peter Maxwell Davies' tenth symphony
and other British music,
heard by RODERIC DUNNETT
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' new symphony, his Tenth, which has just been premiered at London's Barbican Hall by the London Symphony Orchestra under the Royal Opera's Sir Antonio Pappano, puts the cap on a year that has seen some remarkably cogent achievements for the advancement of British music, both contemporary and past, familiar and less so.
Starting from the new symphony, this extended review and retrospective seeks to examine some of the more salient moments advancing British music in the past nine months or so, while also pointing to events in 2014 — English Touring Opera's forthcoming staging (starting in February) of two English near-masterpieces, Tippett's King Priam and Britten's Paul Bunyan (another version is reviewed at the end of this article), the English Music Festival at Dorchester, English Song at Tardebigge, the Three Choirs Festival (this year at Worcester) — of special interest to the lover of English, or British, music.
Maxwell Davies' Tenth is a massive work, both in concept and forces, featuring chorus and orchestra and a baritone solo almost as surprising and arresting as that of Beethoven's Ninth (Davies having elected, like Shostakovich, to write a shorter, though both celebratory and politically critical work for his Ninth, composed for the RLPO and heard in Liverpool on 9 June 2012, before being reprised in August at that year's BBC Proms).
Despite its four movements the new Tenth Symphony has the feel of a definite series of tableaux, or panels, alternating passages of pure orchestral writing with weighty gobbets of text that are, in effect, a meditation upon death...
Copyright © 17 February 2014