The String Quartet from 1952 is Davies' earliest published composition written when he was 18; a work which remained unplayed for many years until the Arditti Quartet took it up and performed it for the composer on a special occasion. Yet this is no typical "student" work--it is a whirlwind movement which already looks forward to the style of the composer to come, with dancing cross-rhythms and hints of Bartok, jazz and Indian music (which Davies later wrote a dissertation on).
Le Jongleur de Notre Dame of 1978 is from an important period of Davies' work. Written and scored for his special ensemble of that time, The Fires of London, it is a virtuoso theater-piece. The libretto, here by the composer, is based on the French tale by Anatole France about a juggler who performs his act before the Virgin Mary and gains her blessing. In Le Jongleur, the juggler is a mime with musical counterparts. The narrative is carried by The Abbot (a baritone), and other brothers represented by the flute, clarinet and percussion. This cheerfully unpretentious work opens and closes with an Overture and Recessional performed by a children's band, who march in (and out), to great sonic effect, of the church where the recording took place.
The CD contains liner notes by critic, musicologist and Davies' expert Paul Griffiths.
Peter Maxwell Davies
Reviews"The String Quartet is very early Maxwell Davies and is very ingratiating. Its slightly abandoned mood blends effectively with jazz influences, Bartok, and much else besides. It is magnificently played by the Ardittis in outstanding sound. Le jongleur de Notre Dame, a masque and a much later work, is a prime example of Davies's 'middle period'. The soundworld is captivating, with delicate tracery rather than effusively symphonic gestures...A thoroughly worthwhile issue." - Classic CD