PETER MAXWELL DAVIES (b.1934): The Beltane Fire, Sunday Morning, Threnody on a Plainsong for Michael Vyner, Sir Charles his Pavan, The Turn of the Tide for Chorus and Orchestra (Manchester Cathedral Girls Choir, Boys of the Manchester Cathedral Choir, Boys of the Manchester Cathedral Voluntary Choir, Choir of Manchester Grammar School).
Catalogue Number: 12Q057
Description: The Beltane Fire is an extended symphonic suite in the composer's most accessible personal version of neo-romantic style. The work was originally intended as a ballet telling a story evoking the rich history and cultural heritage of Scotland, specifically of the Orkney islands where the composer has made his home for many decades. The original plot concerned the tensions between pagan folk traditions and the Reformed Christian church, allowing the composer free rein in two favourite genres - thoroughly authentic-sounding folksong melodies and dances, and transformations of ecclesiastical chant. These form vividly picturesque episodes in a predominantly dark-hued, broodingly evocative score, intermittently somewhat Sibelian, sometimes expressing deep disquiet at the blind march of 'progress' against tradition in dissonant echoes of Maxwell Davies own earlier, massively dissonant style. The Turn of the Tide is a programmatic work with an environmental warning message, and is even more instantly approachable, with striking melodies and a largely tonal language throughout; in the full work, sections involving groups of amateur players are included, so the composer's original music is in a relatively uncomplicated, though by no means anything less than fully effective, style. Brief sections depicting aspects of creation are followed by bleak, agitated music depicting their potential destruction through pollution. A final climax suggests the possibility of hope that this may yet be avoided, in a triumphant dance and hymn of praise to creation. Three short occasional pieces - two of them heartfelt memorials to valued colleagues - in a very approachable style round out the disc. BBC Philharmonic; Peter Maxwell Davies. Original 1991, 1993, 1994 & 1996 Collins Classics releases.