Maxwell Davies Mavis in Las Vegas

Author: 
Michael Oliver

Maxwell Davies Mavis in Las Vegas

  • Ojai Festival Overture
  • Mavis in Las Vegas
  • Carolisíma
  • (A) Spell for Green Corn: The MacDonald Dances
  • (An) Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise

During 1995 Peter Maxwell Davies toured the USA with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. A British journalist, trying to contact him at his hotel in Las Vegas, was told that no one by the name of Davies, Maxwell, Peter or even ‘Sir’ was staying there. He was, of course, but appeared on the hotel’s register as ‘Mavis’ (what the reception desk made of his co-conductor, Yan Pascal Tortelier, is not recorded). Sir Peter seems to have been more delighted than bothered: he was already imagining a richly gowned Mavis descending a pink circular staircase (to the sound not of a mere big band but a colossal one) en route for Caesar’s Palace and the Liberace Museum. Mavis in Las Vegas was the result, a 13-minute “theme and variations”, as the composer calls it, though the conductor, John Mauceri, gets a bit closer by describing it as “a totally mad transvestite dream ballet” and “a bubble-bath in a heart-shaped jacuzzi”. Parody has always been one of Maxwell Davies’s central gifts, and if the producer of the next Hollywood blockbuster is looking for a composer, or if Richard Clayderman needs an arranger or Forest Lawn someone to provide tasteful mortuary music they need look no further. Nor need they fear being raucously sent up: there is as much wry affection as derision here. Sir Peter is also startlingly good at evoking sensational lighting effects: the fountain at Caesar’s Palace, bathed in violet radiance, is almost visible; there is poetry to his description of the lights of Las Vegas seen from the desert at night.
The only problem with this likeable and funny jeu d’esprit is that it lasts less than a quarter of an hour, and many of Maxwell Davies’s admirers will already have the remaining 58 minutes of music on this CD. Those who don’t will find it an entertaining (and sensibly priced) anthology of his lighter pieces, all of them played with the same gusto as the new one, and as cleanly recorded.'

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