Reviews of Chris's Compositions
Blake's Cradle Song
Set to words by William Blake, this inventive and evocative work for unaccompanied mixed choir was written for The Giltspur Singers of London. Performable at Christmas, or at any time of the year, there is much of interest and to enjoy for any adventurous choir looking for music which both challenges and enthuses.
From Sting to Benjamin Britten, Blake’s elusive words have inspired many composers in different genres, and this new setting is certainly worthy of a place among them. The idiom is a sort of Tavener-meets-Howells; an apparent simplicity covers a subtle responsiveness to the words and a beguiling fluidity of musical effect. There are a few tricky harmonic corners but the piece is written with an evident delight in musically shaped phrases that are rewarding to sing.
James L. Montgomery (Church Music Quarterly)
Hark! Hark! glad tidings charm our ears
Hurry to Bethlehem
Set to words by the composer, Hurry to Bethlehem is a great new Christmas work for any adventurous choir looking for something a little different. Written in a tonal and accessible style, there is effective word painting throughout, with each voice playing an important and significant contribution to the whole. There are few technical challenges but much to enjoy by performers and audiences alike.
I sing of a maiden
Let Christians All with Joyful Mirth
Written to celebrate a wedding, the attributes of love, as written in 1 Corinthians 13, are extolled here in a simple four-part a cappella setting. A lovely selection for any wedding or occasion to celebrate the love of God.
Stars of the Morning
This festival anthem celebrates St. Michael and All Angels with choral divisi and organ. A wonderful challenge for advanced choirs, this has imaginative harmony with multi-metered rhythm.
Christopher Maxim's anthem 'for St Michael and All Angels', Stars of the Morning […] is a dramatic - and demanding - setting of the words by J. M. Neale from an ancient hymn, for SATB choir with occasional divisi, which received its first performance in St Paul's Cathedral. It is punctuated by a fortissimo unison melismatic phrase which marks each of its sections, and requires rhythmic precision in negotiating tempo changes as the declamation of the words unfolds. It certainly does justice to the 'thundering' and 'shouts of joy' of which the text speaks!
David Lindley (Organists' Review)
The Oxen is subtitled 'A Christmas Partsong' for unaccompanied SATB choir and successfully sets a most evocative and atmospheric Christmas text by Thomas Hardy. Composed in 2005 for the Giltspur Singers of London, there are musical challenges for each voice with effective and inventive colouring of the words. Christopher Maxim is a very successful composer of choral and vocal music writing works of character and distinction.
Although the thought is a little unseasonal in the spring sunshine, I'm of the opinion that it's never to early to start thinking about music for the Christmas season. Christopher Maxim's unaccompanied SATB setting of Thomas Hardy's poem, The Oxen has done just that. The piece was composed for the London based chamber choir, The Giltspur Singers. The text is set with some sensitivity and [the composition] is remarkably compact at only 36 bars in length. The harmonic language is bold in places, never predictably pastiche, but within a tonal idiom, and the composer uses dissonance fairly sparingly. The composer shows his experience in writing for voices by exploiting a range of textures in a very effective setting Warmly recommended for a confident choir.
Andrew Wilson (Organists' Review)
There being no just cause or impediment to the contrary, Christopher Maxim makes a daring liaison between the music-hall ballad 'Daisy, Daisy' (on pedals) and the grand organ style of Vierne (on manuals) in his Toccata Nuptiale, written for the wedding of a friend whose passions include cycling. The result, which moves along way from the organ loft of Notre Dame, is a splendid addition to the repertoire of wedding music and of light-hearted concert works - and is much simpler to play than a real Vierne toccata!
Stainer & Bell
Audiences, congregations even, will love it – and you, and the organ, and the composer. Every [organist] of the requisite standard should order a copy without hesitation.
Graham Matthews (Organists’ Review)
This splendid piece has been out for some while, but if you have not seen it, or, better, bought it, remedy the situation without delay: it is a guaranteed noise-stopper, tremendous fun to perform and to hear.
Trevor Webb (Church Music Quarterly)
This delightful piece… [is suitable for] joyful liturgical occasions [and] it would make a good light-hearted recital piece.
CN (The Organ)
Christopher Maxim’s Toccata Nupitale is clearly angling to become a bridal favourite to match some of the better-known (and hackneyed) pieces. Maxim has counterpoised a Vierne-like Toccata with the once-popular song written by Harry Dacre in 1892 ‘Daisy Bell’. (Daisy, Daisy / Give me your answer, do. / I'm half-crazy / All for the love of you…’ concluding with the line ‘a bicycle built for two.’) Seemingly, the present toccata was composed especially for a cyclist friend! It is witty, fun and clearly not a cinch to play.
John France (British Classical Music -- The Land of Lost Content; reviewing John Kitchen's performance on The Usher Hall Organ vol. II)
Quite by chance I had just dug out my copy of Christopher Maxim's Toccata Nuptiale, a splendid pastiche on 'Daisy, Daisy' and I had been wondering if there would be any more to come when this Processional arrived. It is a fairly short, tuneful and not too serious wedding processional, which will be welcome listening on many other occasions. A lively, well-articulated manual touch is needed, and confident, well-marked pedal playing -- nothing too difficult, though. Well worth the modest price.
Trevor Webb (Church Music Quarterly)
Processional was written for a wedding and could be used as the bride enters or as a postlude, although neither is specified. It starts with a trumpet flourish which is followed by a jaunty march. This leads to a cantabile middle section which goes through several keys rather restlessly before ushering in a repeat of the opening march theme. This gives way to a final version of the opening trumpet theme, this time scored for full organ. An effective occasional piece, not difficult to play.
Alan Spedding (Organists' Review)
A moving and brief organ work with a slow-march rhythm. Great harmonic interest and appropriate for funerals and solemn occasions.
Only two pages long, the Elegy is characterised by some noticeable harmonic shifts […] There are some elegant filigree decorations periodically that, gesturing to the Baroque, take us in a different direction from the harmonies. I am not sure I would try something so chromatically daring in a funeral or memorial service but there is a distinctive and characterful voice here that would work well in a recital.
Francis O'Gorman (Organists' Review)
Some elegies are resigned, calming pieces, but this one has a yearning, restless feeling after the opening eight bars that is not dissipated by the quiet ending. The sadness of whatever sparked the elegy permeates the music, but in a haunting and bitter-sweet way. It is a short piece that compresses a lot into its 26 bars.
Duncan Watkins (Sunday by Sunday)
Eleven Chorale Preludes
Prelude and Fugue on the name of 'Durufle'
Three Pieces Founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes
Other Instrumental Music
Rondo Giocoso (Double Bass & Piano)
Christopher Maxim has written a wealth of choral and vocal music and Rondo Giocoso is his first work for double bass. It has great rhythmic energy and momentum, offering musical and technical challenges in equal measure, and its lively and vibrant musical language adds to the success of the piece. The accompaniment is confident and supportive, creating a wealth of colours for the double bassist to emulate.
Rondo Giocoso was premièred at Wells Cathedral School (Somerset) on Sunday 24 February 2013 by Ben Groenevelt (double bass) and Gus Tredwell (piano).
Here be Dragons! (Clarinet & Piano)
Though much to be feared, dragons by definition are rarely encountered, living at the furthest corners of the known world, or further even than that. As Bilbo Baggins discovered, to go in search of one can be an epic journey; and though Christopher Maxim, composer of the popular Toccata Nuptiale for organ, does not reveal whether Smaug, or Fafner, or Grendel slain by Beowulf, or the dragon slain by Saint George, is the particular beast in view, Here beDragons! has the dramatic atmosphere of an adventure to remote and mythical places. Darkly chromatic roulades for clarinet, perhaps the creature's fiery breath, set the scene for an exciting duet on a gripping theme that stalks through the music in a variety of menacing variations, including a dragonish fugue. In the energetic arpeggios and trills that embellish the tune there is much for players of around Grade 8 standard to relish, in a showpiece that will undoubtedly lend enchantment to any concert.
Stainer & Bell
Here be Dragons! was originally composed for double bass an piano and was, almost immediately, adapted for clarinet in A, the version premièred by Antonia Mott on 21 march 2014. It was further adapted for clarinet in B flat at the request of Stainer & Bell. Lasting around seven minutes, this is a lovely showpiece full of colourful writing. Embellished scales and arpeggios are a particular feature, with some interesting chromatic writing.
Following a mysterious opening, during which the dragon seems to awaken gradually with rising an falling chromatic scales, the main 6/8 theme is dancelike and energetic in mood, though moderately paced. It passes through a variety of keys and there is a spooky fugue-like passage part way through.
Rhythmically it is fairly straightforward with some repetition, and the highest not is D flat just above the stave. Described as a piece for approximately Grade 8 players, my feeling is that it could easily be enjoyed by Grade 6-7 players too.
Carol Taylor (Clarinet & Saxophone Magazine)