This generously filled portrait CD surveys Robert Saxton's music between
the mid-70s and mid-90s. It takes the form of a well-balanced concert, and
you could have a pleasurable and rewarding evening by listening to the first
four works before a coffee break, and the rest after the interval.
Saxton has an acute ear and his music is fascinating to hear and easy to
enjoy, with or without knowledge of the complex underlying schemes and
procedures. He bestrides tonality and recognisable themes with modernist
textures and processes. He has his own voice, having assimilated influences
which range widely, from the proportional schemes of early English composers
to Schoenberg and his successors, and shaped by Saxton's cultural and religious
heritage 'within the distinguished British line of Eastern European Jewish
artists and thinkers' (David Wright).
In his introductory essay David Wright mentions Carter, and that composer's
experiments with independent tempi (as in the Double Concerto for piano and
harpsichord) come to mind in the powerful title piece which concludes this
programme, inspired by the ancient Greek discovery of trigonometry, enabling
measurement of planetary distances proportionally. Saxton's piano (Ian Pace)
and string quartet go their separate ways, with a structure and time-cycle
representing the planetary orbits and the 'brightness and eternally changing
quality of light' (from Robert Saxton's own detailed and illuminating
commentaries for each work).
The larger ensemble pieces are separated by a Chacony for the piano
left hand (written for Leon Fleisher), Invocation, Dance & Meditation
for viola & piano, and Arias for oboe & piano. Saxton's
Fantazia for string quartet gave the composer a rare pleasure in which
he revelled, a dozen excellent 'first' performances during the 1994 International
String Quartet Competition (a triennial event at which I was present, to
be held again in London this Spring). In Eloge the excellent Brunel
Ensemble from Bristol is joined by Teresa Cahill (soprano) who has a long
association with Saxton's music for voice.
Performances throughout, recording and balancing are excellent, and the
production displays an admirable attention to detail. The booklet is a model
in elegance, comprehensive information and clarity. A very important release,
meriting the highest recommendation.
Peter Grahame Woolf