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Peter Maxwell Davies

Publisher: Chester Music

Caroline Mathilde: Concert Suite from Act II of the ballet (1991)
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
25 Minutes
Soprano, Mezzo soprano
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Programme Note
Peter Maxwell Davies Caroline Mathilde: Concert Suite from Act II of the ballet (1991)
This suite begins with the act's opening number: a boisterous, stamping dance to which the people rudely mock Queen Caroline Mathilde and her lover Struensee. After this comes a dark Adagio, The Conspiracy, in which the theme passes like persuasion from mouth to mouth, its variations suggesting the different attitudes of the conspirators, firmly controlled by the brass-driven gestures of the Queen Dowager. The conspiracy then works itself out at a court masked ball, from which the suite includes two dances: a gavotte, and a slow, lubricious passacaglia that is a pas de deux for Caroline Mathilde and Struensee. The Arrest comes with a gathering rush of music that envelops the King, the Queen and Struensee, leading to a vociferous climax in which they are held apart. In The Execution, slow white music for wordless female voices, harp and low strings is interrupted by pathetic, alienated outbursts from the King. The suite ends, as does the ballet, with a quiet adagio lament for clarinets and alto flute as the Queen goes into exile.

Read about this work at

  • Ensemble
    BBC Philharmonic
    Peter Maxwell Davies
'Davies's music makes use of the elegant dance rhythms of the time as a base on which to build, to mock and to undermine the façade of the court... The whole was an unnerving but captivating suite, authoritatively conducted by Thomas Søndergård, that whetted the appetite for the full-length ballet.'
Elizabeth Davis, BBC Music Magazine,13/08/2014
'...a fascinating piece full of emotion and of ear-stimulating episodes.'
Rob Barnett, Seen & Heard International,13/08/2014
Søndergård and the BBCNOW players did much to dramatize the more directly narrative elements, while highlighting the array of orchestral colouring and dynamic range. Both the writing and the playing for brass in the first two sections were particularly impressive, and Maxwell Davies himself was on hand to receive warm applause at the suite’s end.
John-Pierre Joyce,,12/08/2014
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