Despite the title, this is the first volume of English composer
Peter Seabourne's music to appear on the Italian Sheva
label. 'STEPS' in fact refers to Seabourne's
own anthology project, of which, according to his own website,
there are four volumes to date. This is by all accounts the
first to become available on CD.
Seabourne writes in his ample notes that "...my art is
a lyrical one. I don't much care that this is seen as
unfashionable, or some kind of stab in the back to modernism."
His biography further states that he "stands apart from
much in new music, following his own path." In fact, Seabourne,
like many critics of contemporary art music, seriously under-estimates
the quantity of composers who have always favoured lyricism
and tradition over vanguardism. Even in the post-war heyday
of experimental modernism, there were plenty who preferred to
write music appealing to audiences rather than academic cliques.
It is only in the 21st century that their works - like Seabourne's
- are finally being recorded and disseminated.
The three Books that make up the punningly titled Studies
of Invention - pieces inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's
fertile mind - consist of five movements apiece, lasting somewhere
between three and five minutes each. The composer intends them
as a complete cycle, though allows for them to be played separately.
They are amazingly inventive, especially with regard to rhythm,
and sitting through all three in a single session is a far from
onerous activity. Despite Seabourne's professed inclinations,
however, none of these suites is a straightforwardly tuneful
listen. Titles such as Flying Machines, Study of
a Woman's Hand, Polishing Imperfections in Glass
and The Impossibility of Perpetual Motion give some
indication of the detail and filigree to be expected. The harmonic
colourings and drive of these works call to mind someone like
Prokofiev, and do not suffer by comparison: the Studies
of Invention deserve a wide audience.
The relatively unknown Italian pianist Giovanni Santini gives
a terrifically virtuosic performance of this frequently devilish
music, one that comes with Seabourne's approval. Audio
quality is pretty good, although the piano can hardly be said
to sing out. The English-Italian booklet is tidy and informative.
Santini's biography, written in slightly shaky English,
is of the CV variety that tries hard to impress with a list
of names that will mean very little to most readers. Seabourne
is airborne on the CD cover - his photo of Leonardo's
famous aeroplane design.
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