Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Peter Maxwell Davies: Strathclyde Concertos Nos. 3 & 4

Maxwell Davies: Strathclyde Concertos Nos. 3 and 4
Robert Cook, French horn
Peter Franks, trumpet
Lewis Morrison, clarinet
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Peter Maxwell Davies, conductor

The Strathclyde Concertos are a unique group of compositions. Commissioned by Strathclyde, Peter Maxwell Davies composed one concerto a year for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The ten concertos, spanning a decade, make an impressive -- and somewhat unified -- body of work.

This release features the third concerto for horn and trumpet, and the fourth concerto for clarinet in arguably the most authoritative performances recorded -- the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for whom the works were written, conducted by the composer himself.

One of the characteristics of the Strathclyde concertos is the elimination of competing voices from the orchestra, throwing the solo instruments in sharp relief to the ensemble. So the third concerto has no brass instruments, save for the solo French horn and trumpet. The fourth concerto has only one clarinet -- the soloist.

Each concerto fully explores the possibilities of the solo instruments, and those possibilities influence the direction of the work. The brass concerto is more aggressive than the clarinet concerto, with wider melodic leaps and an higher energy level overall. The clarinet concerto, while more lyrical and soft-spoken, is not without some spiky sections as well.

This is a re-release from the Collins Classic series (they recorded Concertos 3-10). I'm hoping Naxos will eventually reissue the rest, and perhaps the first two from Unicorn-Kanchana too, please?

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