In spite of his early studies at Princeton and his frequent invocation of jazz, nothing in Davies's music so far has evoked the enormous - and enormously affectionate - relish he shows here for the great American experience at its most absurd. 'Mavis' is none other than the composer in the form he found himself computer-listed at a Las Vegas hotel while on tour there with the BBC Philharmonic. Here she has an identity all her own, her theme first heard in sentimentally dreamy fashion on solo violin: a connection ritornello, as it turns out, between adventures in a variation form which keeps mere pastiche at bay. The (over) bright lights of the desert Babylon tempt the composer to his most glittering colours, involving a large percussion section and some incandescent orchestral effects, but it is the sounds of big-band and big-country America which he is most intent on evoking, featuring snapshots of a garish gambling hall, a chapel on the 'Strip', the Liberace museum, city lights seen from the desert and - in an exuberant finale - Las Vegas's synthetic volcano in full eruption, much to Mavis's delight. Written for large orchestra including large percussion section, banjo, harp and celeste.
This work was commissioned by the BBC for the BBC Philharmonic. It was first performed in March 1997 at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Maxwell Davies.
Score (miniature). Duration c. 13mins.