Mr Emmet Takes a Walk
Record No: PSA CD 1002
Price: £7.99
  1. Listen nowNo. 1 Introduction
  2. No previewNo. 2 Duet
  3. No previewNo. 3 Arioso
  4. No previewNo. 4 Cabaletta
  5. No previewNo. 5 Trio
  6. No previewEpisode 1 The Piano
  7. No previewInterlude 1
  8. No previewEpisode 2 The Park
  9. No previewInterlude 2
  10. No previewEpisode 3 Hotel Room
  11. No previewInterlude 3
  12. No previewEpisode 4 The Mountain
  13. No previewInterlude 4
  14. No previewEpisode 5 The Teacher
  15. No previewThe Torch Song
  16. No previewInterlude 5
  17. No previewRecapitulation - A monologue
  18. No previewCoda
  19. No previewSir Peter Maxwell Davies in conversation with Paul Driver

Mr Emmet Takes a Walk

Mr Emmet Takes a Walk has been billed as Peter Maxwell Davies final music-theatre work. This premiere recording has been made with the original cast, conductor and musicians who worked with Max on every aspect of the work and also performed it many times across Europe. The co-production (with Muziektheater Transparant) was highly acclaimed and in 2000 was awarded the Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for the Best Opera Production of the Year.

The recording also includes a 20 minute interview in which Max talks to Paul Driver (of the Sunday Times, London) about the work.

The music of this theatre work is based on fragments by four composers, two of whom are mentioned in the text. These are J.S. Bach and Schumann - the others are Andrea Gabrieli and Mozart. All are heard in the Introduction, and everything thereafter is derived, by variation, transformation and development, from these citations. They surface quite often in the course of the work, suggesting half-forgotten events of happier times in Mr. Emmet's life.

Initially it helped the composition process to imagine the music's time-span as occurring between the sound of the train, with horn blaring, heard directly after the Introduction, and the impact when it strikes Mr. Emmet, who has laid his head on the track before it, right at the end. The whole action was to occur in that out-of-time moment before self-inflicted sudden death, with the brain in overdrive, and memories, events, justifications and fantasies teeming through the mind in that split second. However, this is but one possible interpretation - the text revealed, in the course of composition, a criss-crossing of reality, dream and waking fantasy, opening up a kaleidoscope of possible interpretations.

Mr. Emmet's ultimate "walk" is that which takes him down the railway embankment to his suicide, which I pre-figure in the Introduction: I thought of this as a Funeral March.

The harpsichord, 'cello and double-bass slowly assemble Bach's F Minor Prelude from Book 2 of the Well-tempered Clavier into a rather blurred focus, moving at a very deliberate walking pace, while the violin and viola outline the end of Andrea Gabrieli's Edipo Tiranno of 1585, setting the words "And now I close my eyes in eternal darkness" (here unsung, unspoken). The Bach easily twists into Mozart and Schumann - a very alert listener would recognise the music of Dona Anna's 'come furia disperata' from Don Giovanni, and bits from the opening of Schumann's Second Symphony. (I have noticed and pointed up the common ground of all these quotations, so that they appear to grow from one into the other, assembled out of basic common rhythmic and intervallic material.)

There is no stylistic purity in Mr. Emmet: the musical styles change as the texts suggests. As in all my music-theatre works, some of the music is emphatically tonal, with very obvious key centres, I trust giving clarity by defining points along the line of argument.

Peter Maxwell Davies