The 10 works in Peter Maxwell Davies's Naxos Quartet cycle, now complete on disc, make a hugely varied sequence in mood, manner, scale and inspiration, and the last pair released here, illustrate that perfectly. Where the Tenth still seems, as it did at its first performance last year, a curiously insubstantial work with which to end such a major undertaking, more like a neo-baroque suite of genre pieces than a trenchantly argued final word, the Ninth, completed in 2006, is one of the most imposing and challenging works in the cycle, with six movements laid out almost on the scale of one of Beethoven's late quartets. Davies describes its long first movement as having autobiographical content, conjuring memories of his Manchester childhood during the second world war - the air-raid sirens and the exploding bombs - incorporated into the dense, rapidly changing string writing, and the equally extensive slow movement that follows develops these ideas, the work changing tack, with a quick-fire sequence of character sketches, followed by a finale that draws the threads together. It's a complex, puzzling work, but the Maggini Quartet make it wonderfully plausible and leave no doubt about the creative fire behind it.
CD: Naxos Quartets Nos 9 and 10, Maggini Quartet