Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Peter Maxwell Davies
The Naxos Quartets 8 & 9
Haydn Quartet in E flat Op71 No 3

Maggini Quartet


Wigmore Hall Wednesday 20 October 2006


Peter Maxwell Davies' 8th Naxos Quartet, inspired by Dowland and dedicated to the Queen, began reflectively – seeming to follow on from the 7t , inspired by the architecture of Borromini. By and large it continued in the same vein. The Magginis played the Haydn with just the right lightness of touch.


In his programme note Max said that while he as writing the 9th quartet he was remembering growing up in wartime Manchester . He also referred back to his 3 rd quartet which was written at the beginning of the Iraq war. These references together with his pre-concert talk had led us to believe that we might be in for a return to the earlier iconoclastic Max of Eight Songs for a Mad King or St. Thomas' Wake , Foxtrot for Orchestra. Not so. The first movement's agitated mood was interrupted at intervals of calm, intended perhaps as windows on the large second movement to follow. When this arrived it was in its turn subjected to agitated interruptions. The next three short movements he described as a quartet within a quartet, culminating in a grotesque parody of a military march. Their purpose seemed obscure at the time and yet maybe they are a necessary foil to the heavyweight movements that surround them. With a final movement that progressively disintegrates, ending in a cry of sheer terror, this quartet gives us the closest insight yet into the most personal hopes and fear of its composer.


The quartet is dedicated to Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw, mathematician extraordinary and sometime Lord Mayor of Manchester – both attributes influenced the content of the work. It is, as it were, a return dedication, as Dame Kathleen has dedicated a book on “magic squares”. These, of course, are one of Max's favourite compositional tools.


Jeremy and Yvonne Clarke