ROBERT SAXTON (b.1953): Piano Sonata, Hortus Musicae Books 1 and 2, Lullaby for Rosa, Chacony for Piano Left Hand.
Catalogue Number: 04T069
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0458
Description: Saxton's music is often concerned with spiritual and philosophical matters, so it is no surprise that the structure and content of the two substantial suites here receiving their premiere recordings would be well-ordered 'gardens' with "...allegorical/metaphysical implications, the entire set addressing the idea of the garden as a ‘sacred space’." as the composer puts it. The works are accordingly devoid of flashy virtuosic showmanship (though they are by no means devoid of technical demands. Saxton is fond of historical forms, so we find here chaconne and canon (Hortus Infinitatis), chorale prelude (Hortus Cantus), and fugue (Hortus Animae Alis Fugacis). The second book is noticeably less formal than the first, with a degree of Debussyan impressionism; the titles reflect this, with references to natural beauties and memory (Beech Bank includes reminiscences of music heard at the composer's grandparents' home, woven into the contrapuntal undergrowth of reminiscence), and so does the harmony, freer and more fluid. Saxton's vocabulary is based on pitch centres describing a cycle of fifths, and so the music is essentially tonal. So is the earlier (1988) Chacony, full of invention and succeeding, to a remarkable degree, in fulfilling the composer's intention of disguising the fact that only one hand is in use, and the somewhat Bartókian sonata from seven years earlier, which ends with a bell-like chorale in memory of Bartók. Clare Hammond (piano).