CD review: Peter Maxwell Davies late chamber music

First published in the Guardian on 19 January, 2017

Maxwell Davies: Chamber music
Canino/Ceccanti/Fossi/Ceccanti (Naxos)

Rome and Fair Isle, not an obvious pairing, were both inspirations behind late-period Maxwell Davies chamber music. His Piano Trio (2002) invokes Shetland tunes, rough waters and jagged cliffscapes. The Sonata for Violin and Piano (2008) imagines a walk through Rome with menacing dark alleys and sudden epiphanies. In both the music roams and spirals. The violinist on this recording is the fantastically ardent Duccio Ceccanti, with his cellist brother Vittorio, fond of big gestures, and the pianists Bruno Canino and Matteo Fossi. The disc opens with the Sonata for Violin Alone (2013), which Ceccanti plays with a deeply personal conviction and untethered flair hard to imagine from anyone else. Recorded in a massively resonant town hall in Perugia, the single 20-minute elegy feels improvisatory, austere, questioning, resolute. As a palette cleanser we get the Dances from The Two Fiddlers — hackneyed folk pastiches from Maxwell Davies’s 1970s children’s opera that sound utterly kitsch in Ceccanti’s fulsome vibrato and assiduous Scotch snaps.