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Lionel SAINSBURY (b.1958)
Five Tangos, Op. 34 [23:25]
Canto ostinato, Op. 30 [1:56]
Sea Storm, Op. 24 [5:20]
Two Cuban Dances, Op. 19 [5:35]
Incantation, Op. 26 [7:21]
Ten Moments Musicaux, Op. 31 [24:22]
Meditation, Op. 28 [6:20]
Lionel Sainsbury (piano)
rec. 21 March, 16 April and 14 May 2013, Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, UK
NAVONA NV5951 [70:12]

A Lionel Sainsbury work can always be approached with a guarantee of freshness and direct-speaking. This disc provides further irrefutable evidence to this end.
 
The music of Wiltshire-born English composer Lionel Sainsbury has been addressed here before. In our earliest days there were reviews of his piano music CD which complements the present disc. Later we looked in detail at his moving Cello Concerto and Violin Concerto both of which are on Dutton; do not miss them. Let us hope that we will not have to wait much longer for his orchestral symphonic poem The Time of the Comet.
 
These are good times for the Tango and for the South American ambience generally. Sainsbury, a gifted melodist, is drawn sunwards and Southwards in much the same way that many Scandinavian composers were drawn to the Mediterranean. His Five Tangos are affluent in memorable tunes and dense emotion, both suppressed and expressed. The short and quick-pulsed Allegro molto is not perhaps a Tango but its character is consonant with its companions. The half-bluesy fogs and mangrove mysteries of the Lento are striking. The final Risoluto trills with nocturnal Hispanic power and is punctuated with rills and florid cells that find quietude at one moment and the next explode with impressive torque and haughty display. Young pianists everywhere should look out for these works as attention-grabbers for competition panels and appreciative audiences alike. If you like the Tango from Barber's Souvenirs suite then these five pieces will captivate ... and will have the same effect even if you don't know the Barber.
 
The Canto Ostinato murmurs and rocks to and fro in a hypnotically, bluesy vignette. Sea Storm continues the theme of grandeur. There's that rocking ostinato again - another suggestion of the murmuring oceanic distances evoked by Bax, Bantock and Nystroem. Over the ostinato, and growing from it, the storm thrives and as ever leaves the listener to choose moment by moment between the suggestion of the sea swell and the tempest of human emotions.
 
The Two Cuban Dances take us back to the realm of the Five Tangos. Sultry airs and a seductive swaying motion transcend the clichés while at the same time using them as a foundation. These two dances are the closest approach to light music on this disc.
 
Incantation is from some fifteen years ago. That suggestive rocking motion again provides a root structure from which a majestically turbulent Rachmaninovian arch languidly and magnificently springs. Admirers of de Falla's piano music should also find points of reference in this work - at least if they know the Fantasia Baetica and Quatro Piezas Españolas.
 
The Ten Moments Musicaux in total play for about the same time as the Five Tangos but are individually shorter. These emotion sketches have less of the Bougainvillea and Seville shadows about them and more of the poetry and sometime vehemence of Medtner and Rachmaninov. There are also moments when you might think you are within a stone's throw of Gershwin's Three Preludes. The Sostenuto again makes use of that beloved ostinato.
 
The warming Latin breezes return for the final track's Meditation which shares the sunlight and dapple of the Tangos.
 
I rather hope that Sainsbury might orchestrate some of these works although they feel naturally apt to the piano, as one would expect.
 
We have the reassurance associated with the composer playing his own music and no doubt reliving the choices and inspirations made and experienced in writing the music. The sound of the piano is most commandingly captured and put across.
 
The complementary liner-note is by Jeremy Nicholas and is in English only.
 
Virtuosic and passionate oratory expressed through the piano and sharpened and softened by sultry accents.
 
If you are intrigued by Sainsbury then try the KUSC download from Jim Svejda's radio programme devoted to this composer.
 
If you enjoy the solo piano music of Einaudi, of Nyman, of Maxwell Davies or of Nikolai Kapustin then you need to hear this. Sainsbury offers additional dimensions and especially depth without avant-garde obfuscation.
 
Rob Barnett