The instrumental sextet Ave Maris Stella is one of Peter Maxwell Davies's greatest achievements, and one of the most powerful of all instrumental works. Composed in 1975, it's a single-movement sextet, almost 30 minutes long, falling into nine interlinked sections. It is based on the plainsong chant of the same name, and inhabits the distinctive sound world, characterised by the marimba, of so many of the works that Davies produced after he settled in Orkney a few years earlier. It's a tough, thrillingly sustained musical argument, and a piece that's as challenging for the performers as it is for the first-time listener, but the Gemini players seem to be totally on top of its thematic intricacies and finely honed lyricism. Alongside it they include three much slighter works. One, the paraphrase of Psalm 124, is contemporary with Ave Maris Stella, while the others, Dove, Star-Folded, and Economies of Scale, are recent tribute pieces, close to the musical world of Davies's series of Naxos Quartets.
CD: Maxwell Davies: Ave Maris Stella; Psalm 124; etc