We have been enjoying the Maggini Quartet's complete cycle of Naxos Quartets, composed for them by Peter Maxwell Davies, whose pre-eminence among British composers was recognized when he was appointed Master of the Queen's Music in 2004. (Maxwell Davies dedicated no. 8 to the Queen.) The cycle of ten string quartets was the commission of Naxos's founder Klaus Heyneman, and the regular installments on recording were recommended by Jens as among the best discs of the year in 2005 and 2004. The news has come from London that the cycle has been completed. Once the discs are all together on my desk (or Jens's), it will be time for a complete assessment. Andrew Clark has a review of no. 10, premiered at Wigmore Hall last week (Maxwell Davies’ 10th Naxos Quartet, Wigmore Hall, London, October 17) for the Financial Times:
1 and 2 (2004)
3 and 4 (2005)
5 and 6 (2006)
7 and 8 (2007)
With the premiere on Tuesday of his 10th and final Naxos String Quartet, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies came to the end of what must surely rank as one of the most impressive musical statements of our time. From the intimate exchanges of four string players Max has drawn a language that contradicts the prevailing notion of music as a medium that needs size and/or volume to make an impact. He has gone back to the classic models, Haydn and Beethoven, and somehow found within himself a creative wellspring that can withstand comparison with theirs. No mean achievement.Also see the review from Andrew Clements (Maggini Quartet, October 19) for The Guardian. The end of the series is further complicated by a recent personnel change in the Maggini Quartet, in the person of their new first violinist Lorraine McAslan (recently enough that her predecessor, Laurence Jackson, is still listed in the group's Naxos biography). She will presumably be on the recording of no. 10, too.
For those of us who have followed this journey, it has been an immensely rewarding experience. Naxos is to be congratulated for its enterprise – the CDs of each successive quartet-pairing have followed soon after the premiere – and the Maggini Quartet deserves equal recognition for learning so much new and often complex music. The finale, nevertheless, was an anti-climax, with Max himself apparently at a loss to know how to round off the series. His conclusion – to draw a temporary line, with the intention of returning to a medium that has stimulated so many creative juices – seems appropriate, but the 10th Naxos Quartet finds him hovering uneasily, as if his mind is already impatient to move on.