SCO & Sean Shibe - Maxwell Davies: An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise - BBC Music Magazine

The orchestral works Ebb of Winter and Last Door of Light were both written in Maxwell Davies's old age. While neither strays beyond his familiar territory of Orkney landscape, environmental concern, and tight-reined orchestra rhetoric, each is superbly imagined nonetheless, with the intersection of intricate construction and ultra clear part-writing that was uniquely this composer's. Aficionados will not mind hearing, yet again, those trademark Maxwell Davies devices of whooping horn glissandos and hyperactive chattering trumpets, especially when delivered with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's bombproof expertise; and Ben Gernon's conducting of both works is forthright and immaculate.

The beautifully executed guitar interludes are supplied by Edinburgh's Sean Shibe; Hill Runes is based on a cryptic five-stanza poem by Orkney poet George Mackay Brown, while Farewell to Stromness is an arrangement by Timothy Walker (the guitarist of Maxwell Davies's Fires of London group) of the piano original. An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise depends on the presence of a live audience for its riotous goings-on to come across best; not even orchestral playing as scintillating as this, with brilliant recorded sound to match, can quite compensate for an inevitable loss of atmosphere in Edinburgh's otherwise empty Usher Hall.

BBC Music Magazine
06 December 2016