Back in 2015, when we gave the world premiere at the festival, this extraordinary piece presented different challenges not least because it was performed in such a large venue in which we needed to project the work in a different way. The Quartetto di Cremona and Jamie teamed up with baritone David Stout who gave a superb, operatic rendition of his part and this lent itself to the vast space very effectively.
Here, recording at the Priory, we wanted to approach it afresh, as if we were yet to explore this musical language. The circumstances of a world premiere recording, which was quite far removed from the adrenalin and intensity of the festival, lent itself to an equally contrasted interpretation; the quartet and I were joined by lyric bass-baritone John Savournin and we set about this very much with Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes in mind, bearing in mind that we were also recording by the sea.
This is partly why A Sea of Cold Flame is set alongside Britten, whose Lachrymae conjures up a similar atmosphere, influenced by John Dowland's melancholia, in turn lending an influence to Peter Maxwell Davies himself. The lineage is strong and it is in many ways deeply moving, particularly as the music from all three composers lack sentiment.
'Max’ had only recently passed away three months before but his spirit was at the forefront of this recording - if not there directly. Our affection for him as a person transferred equally onto our wonder at this new work, one of his last and one which he composed during his tenure at our festival. It’s a vital work in every sense of the word.