Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Second Symphony is his ‘Sea Symphony’, a complex, virtuosic work that explores in absorbing, increasingly dynamic fashion, the ocean’s proximity and what the composer calls ‘the architecture of its forms’. Both themes and orchestration are masterly. The percussion section is richly voiced, adding considerably to the symphony’s very particular, rugged and varied sound world. St Thomas Wake, by contrast, is a disquieting but bravura exercise in parody, evoking memories of the composer’s experiences during the Second World War.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is a leading symphonist and this particular work is a rugged, powerful example of how he has absorbed the influence of, say, Sibelius to generate his own sense of sound, motion and energy. As with the companion work, the sardonic, parodic St Thomas Wake, this is an ex-Collins recording, and it received excellent reviews when first released in 1994, though back then these two works were not coupled together.