Critical acclaim for the world premiere of Maxwell Davies's 9th Symphony
Published: 19 June 2012
On 9 June, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s 9th Symphony received its World Premiere performance from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko. The work is dedicated to Her Majesty The Queen in her Diamond Jubilee year and is a co-commission between the Royal Liverpool and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestras. It will receive its London premiere from the RLPO and Petrenko on 23 August at the BBC Proms, followed by its Scandinavian premiere in Helsinki under John Storgårds next year.
Reviews for the World Premiere of Maxwell Davies’s 9th Symphony:
“Peter Maxwell Davies has been Master of the Queen's music since 2004 and his Ninth Symphony, given its world premiere by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko, is dedicated to the Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. If, however, you think this suggests something breezily celebratory, then you'd be wrong.
Representing Maxwell Davies at his most engaged, it's an angry work that bears witness to "our disastrous interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan – comparable only to the folly of the medieval crusades and the Crimean war." Maxwell Davies describes himself as "not pacifist as such". The symphony is not an attack on the military, but an indictment of the governmental instigation of meaningless slaughter.
It plays continuously, and the score derives its tensions from the conflict between the main orchestra and a brass sextet placed above it on the platform. Their devil-may-care incursions into the opening allegro usher in a brutal development, the violence of which rapidly escalates as the sextet then kicks off a series of insolent, horribly insensitive marches.
After a savage climax, a slow, occasionally discursive string threnody takes over, during which the brass intrusions gradually lose some ferocity and the music moves towards a tentative nobility. Hardgoing for the performers (above all, the brass) the piece found the RLPO at their precise, committed best and Petrenko at his most intense.”
“It’s a concentrated piece following a distinct pattern: a triumphant opening and first half, which is followed by a somewhat introverted and slow second part. Within the work, a brass sextet interpolates a number of fanfares – completely appropriate for the nature and dedication of the work.
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, under Vasily Petrenko, gave a stylish, accomplished performance. It certainly deserves another outing and one is scheduled for August, when the RLPO makes its appearance with Petrenko at this year’s BBC Proms.”
“The broad design is certainly assured. Opposing tempos and characters interact, and the military music has an intrusive quality, at some points evoking Mahler, that fuels the ongoing argument. As a result, the single movement feels shorter than its 23 minutes.
Textures are more transparent than in some of Max’s earlier symphonies, but the coruscating tuned percussion and braying high trumpets mark the score as uniquely his.”
“Compared with some of Maxwell Davies' other symphonies the Ninth is quite concentrated - lasting around 25 minutes - but, similar to other works, it draws on a range of influences. There are military marches, touches of modality linked to medieval plainsong, even a reworking of the trio from Haydn’s String Quartet Op 54 No 2.
It’s scored for a large orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, under Vasily Petrenko, gave a stylish, accomplished performance.”
The Arts Desk
“It was both strange and strangely striking, the main body of the orchestra swirling in an ominous, other-worldly musical miasma or thundering in an urgent cacophony while a separate brass sextet offered a melodic but increasingly corrupted and perilously cock-eyed series of quasi-Edwardian military marches.”