Related Reviews
BBC Music Magazine
4½ Stars
'...Maxwell Davies devices of whooping horn glissandos and hyperactive chattering trumpets, delivered with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's bombproof expertise; and Ben Gernon's conducting is forthright and immaculate.'
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AllMusic
'Included is an ebullient performance of one of Maxwell Davies' most popular pieces of any period, An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise...[Hill Runes and Farewell to Stromness] are beautifully played by guitarist Sean Shibe.'
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MusicWeb International
'The programme is well chosen, excellently played and beautifully recorded, making it about the most accessible introduction to Max's music that I can think of.'
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New Zealand Herald
5 Stars
'The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has released a most attractive sampling of orchestral works, interspersed with solos by guitarist Sean Shibe...He gives it a magnificent performance, especially in the luminous resonances of a breathtaking Adagio molto [of Hill Runes].'
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Crescendo
« Farewell to Stromness est toute vibrante et gracieuse... [Ebb of Winter et Last Door of Light] de fort beaux exemples de l'exceptionnel talent de Peter Maxwell Davies... »
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Gramophone
'For a single-disc introduction to the many voices of Max, look no further.'
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Classical Music
5 Stars
'Committed and polished performances...Excellent sound.'
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The Arts Desk
'[Peter Maxwell Davies’s An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise] packs an emotional, uplifting punch, and this performance is a belter...The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, whose flawless, fearless playing under Ben Gernon is a consistent pleasure.'
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The Scotsman
5 Stars
'Ben Gernon conducts a performance that glistens with crystal clear textures and those mysterious Orkney soundscapes.'
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Herald Scotland
'The most beautiful, resonant and soulful performance of Max's Farewell to Stromness.'
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McAlister Matheson Music Newsletter
'...played with an irrepressible panache and swinging energy...It's all hugely life-inspiring.'
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Financial Times
4 Stars
'An atmospheric performance under conductor Ben Gernon.'
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The Sunday Times
'...this disc affords a fond farewell to the composer and the musical realisation of his adopted Orkney.'
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The Observer
4 Stars
'...it makes a worthy and deeply felt portrait of Max's Orkney.'
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SCO & Sean Shibe - Maxwell Davies: An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise - MusicWeb International


11 October 2016
MusicWeb International
Dominy Clements

This release has a special poignancy, having been prepared and recorded very much with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's involvement only five months before he passed away. As remarked in the booklet, his decade long collaboration with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra was a defining one, and works such as the ten Strathclyde Concertos, written with its talented musicians in mind, remain significant additions to the 20th century orchestral canon.

The overture Ebb of Winter was written for the SCO's fortieth anniversary in 2014, and indeed composed, while treatment for Maxwell Davies's leukaemia was underway in the spring and summer of 2013. The restless nature of the music is reflected in his description of the work as one of rebirth: "spring was just starting to come in. The weather and climate in Orkney changed day by day, when I went out for a walk with my dog. The piece is a reaction to the Orkney climate and influenced by Orkney folk music." This is by no means ‘folksy' music, and doesn't inhabit the lighter world of An Orkney Wedding, but snappy rhythms and moments of open harmony are a constant reminder of remote source materials, as much as the moments of intense, dramatically still atmosphere are reminders of the ancient landscapes, over which we roam for our brief span. While it is a welcome relief to see this ‘Concert Overture' at the top of the programme, this is a far more wide-ranging and symphonic work than this appellation would seem to imply.

Hill Runes was written for Julian Bream with five movements or sections that each refer to lines of poetry by George Mackay Brown. This is a work, filled with remarkably skilful writing for guitar, though its tradition steps away consciously from Spanish traditions of playing, looking more towards the counterpoint of the lute music, which is more a product of British names such as John Dowland. Angular but deeply expressive, this is not really Dowland-esque in its effect, though the longer Adagio molto does seem to be searching comparable emotional realms of love and loss. Staying with Sean Shibe's superlative guitar playing, the Farewell to Stromness, a deservedly popular transcription of a cabaret piece originally for piano, is a tune that Maxwell Davies said he would be content to be remembered by. Given the context here it can't help but bring a tear to the eye, as it was the only music played at Maxwell Davies's funeral. Farewell indeed.

Last Door of Light is part of a series of "environmentally-inspired" works, in this case a tone poem the title of which comes from George Mackay Brown's Thorfinn that describes the death at sea of Orkney's 11th century Earl Thorfinn Sigurdsson as a "salt key in his last door of light". Maxwell Davies's piece is "a meditation on such individual and communal vulnerability" as is exposed to the wrecking and destructive power of the sea, implying drama through passages of relatively restrained turbulence, but always with an eye on that distant and enigmatic horizon that stands for the temporal nature of our lives and our exposed dwellings.

An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise is a "joyous and show-stopping" piece that describes in some detail a wedding, complete with terrible weather, considerable amounts of whisky drinking and drunken music-making, and rounded off with a final procession home complete with bagpipes. This is a performance both refined and deliciously decadent, with all of the whoops and staggering around demanded of the narrative, but done with nicely balanced taste and style.

As I have said, this is a release that any fan of Peter Maxwell Davies will want, whatever the alternative recordings available - and of these there are precious few for most of these pieces. An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise has its classic, characterful and witty recording conducted by the composer on Naxos, and while dedicatee Julian Bream recorded Hill Runes, this seems to be unavailable at the moment. As a final salute to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies it could hardly be bettered.    
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Related Links

Ben GernonBen Gernon
Scottish Chamber OrchestraScottish Chamber Orchestra
Sean ShibeSean Shibe
Maxwell Davies: An Orkney Wedding, With SunriseMaxwell Davies: An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise