Ave Maris Stella: Chamber Music by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

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Gemini's 2007 album of four chamber works by Peter Maxwell Davies features the nine-movement sextet Ave Maris Stella (1975), with three shorter pieces, Psalm 124 (1974), Dove, Star-Folded (2001), and Economies of Scale (2002). By far the most ambitious in techniques and longest in duration, Ave Maris Stella displays some of the layered musical references, stark contrasts of tone color, and angular lines that figured prominently during Davies' early period, though much more provocatively in such works as Antechrist, Eight Songs for a Mad King, and Vesalii Icones. Ave Maris Stella, and the later Economies of Scale, are the most challenging offerings because of their sharp dissonances and often harsh sonorities, whereas Psalm 124 and Dove, Star-Folded are much quieter and reflective meditations. Gemini's instrumentation ranges from the modest string trio employed in Dove to the combination of flute/alto flute, bass clarinet, glockenspiel, marimba, violin/viola, cello, and guitar of the Psalm, though the album feels fairly unified by the more or less regular presence of the flute, clarinet, violin, viola, and cello. While students of the composer's work may find these pieces mild and relatively accessible, if not actually tame by Davies' standards, casual listeners still may find the music's abrasive aspects harder to appreciate.

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