Peter Maxwell Davies: reviews of Ebb of Winter(November 2013)
Peter Maxwell Davies's new concert overture, Ebb of Winter, was premiered in Glasgow on 8 November, a highlight of 40th celebrations from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
"Who’d have thought, 12 months ago, that we’d be listening to a major new work by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies?" So wrote The Scotsman about the world premiere on 8 November of the composer's new Orkney-inspired concert overture, going on to note how his "health traumas of the past year seem to have awoken a newfound zeal that was certainly evident in the premiere last night of Ebb of Winter, a work commissioned and performed by the SCO to celebrate its 40th anniversary season... "
"The first thing that hits you is the sheer exuberance of this 20-minute tone poem. Inspired by the unpredictable, ever-changing Orkney weather, it dances with mercurial fluidity, long strains of sinewy melody constantly buffeted by luminous sprays of chattering brass and woodwind. A startling strain of warm-hearted Romanticism underpins everything, exerting a softening effect on some of the old Max austerity that lurks bullishly beneath the surface. Oliver Knussen conducted a sparkling first performance, matching ear for detail with a powerful sense of build towards the final blazing major chord."
"Most striking about the 15-minute work... were the SCO's vivid orchestral textures and the way that Maxwell Davies nimbly weaves material between instruments. The horns open with a gallant theme that soon echoes on a mournful oboe. There's restlessness in the basses and frenetic, tangled winds that cut to hushed strings, as if a walker struggling through a fierce wind suddenly rounds a corner and finds peace. The work nearly ends in a blazing major triad, but at the last minute a single note of close dissonance adds overtones that ring out defiantly... Its impact is arresting and its haunting soundworld couldn't be from the pen of any other composer."
"You could take the piece any way you want: in the pictorial literalism of the music (the realisation of "slippery underfoot" the best I have ever heard) or the sun-kissed but freezing atmospheres throughout the piece, with its dazzling, radiantly spring-like major chord at the end. But my own preference in this wee masterwork is the (by now and long since established) natural Scottish accent in the music that underpins its identity, and the dance-like figuration, lilt and momentum that propels the piece in its later stages. And, for me, the fact that Max's music is still dancing, which I said to the great man after the performance, is one of the most enduring qualities of his work."
Maxwell Davies at 80
The Maxwell Davies 80th year of 2014 is launched on 2 February with the premiere of his new Symphony No.10 (published by Schott). Classic works including Eight Songs for a Mad King and An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise are programmed around the world in honour of the 80th birthday.
> Read more about Max at 80
> Explore Max's works across his musical life
> Further information on Work: Concert overture: Ebb of Winter
Photo: Martin Lengermann
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