Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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LIONEL SAINSBURY Twelve Preludes; Cuban Fantasy; Nocturne; Andalusian Fantasy; South American Suite Lionel Sainsbury (piano)PNH 443 [71:34] approx. £10.50 incl p&p or $20US incl airmail - confirm price before ordering. Cheques made payable to Lionel Sainsbury c/o Sally Thompson, 23 Murray House, 3-5 Vandon Street, London SW1H 0AN.

 




This is a DISCOVERY and I urge you to hear this CD! Lionel Sainsbury’s violin concerto was knowingly and brilliantly played by Lorraine McAslan during BBC ‘Fairest Isle’ year 1995. The icing was taken off the cake by the concerto being broadcast in the morning during the working week. The concerto is lambent, melodious, inspirational - alternating drama and poetry. It is a big work playing 38 minutes. Style parallels include the Walton violin concerto although it is no mere facsimile of that work and comes across as a fresh work with a long life if only it can get more attention, broadcasts and performance.

The Preludes are a peppery mix of Mayerl, Gershwin, Ireland, Rachmaninov and de Falla. The Iberian vein is a strong one and while you expect it in the delightful Hispanic-named fantasies (and the varied suite) it also catches you in the second and sixth preludes. Brilliant sunshine, dense black shadows, clangorous pealing ‘wrong-notes’ and a Moorish turn to the tunes. The Gershwin and Mayerl echoes appear in preludes 3-5, the last of which has that beguiling, smoke-festooned, romantic atmosphere of a restaurant at 3.00 a.m. Ireland and Bax are suggested at least superficially by the third and eight preludes. The grandeur of Sainsbury’s writing is extremely impressive (try the opening and closing preludes). The final prelude is ultra-romantic, insistent, memorable and vibrant with an intense energy. I had to play that track time and again. It has something of the drastic dark pulsing energy of Rachmaninov’s Etudes-Tableaux as well as the feverish jazzy glow of Walton’s still desperately underestimated Sinfonia Concertante. Tremendous! I do hope that this music comes to the attention of Eric Parkin, Phillip Dyson and Jack Gibbons. They will find it irresistible and so will you.

Reviewer

Rob Barnett

and a further point of view from Colin Scott-Sutherland

If one were dipping into this intriguing CD at random the temptation might be to put the music on and let it drift as charming picture-postcard background music. Such superficial thoughts are quickly dispelled. This is music of character, and with its ‘heart-on-sleeve’ insistence on exotic Iberian rhythms (easily repetitive in less persuasive hands) the music quickly captivates, and is played with crisp energy by the composer on a disc of excellent quality. Here may be all the elements of pop/jazz, coloured by the exotic rhythms of the southern Mediterranean (and beyond, something of the primitivism of the southern Americas) but they are elevated, in this richly decorative music, to the level of classical formulae. Apart from the obvious allegiances (and the Andalusian ambience which, I suggest, is that of the native landscapes of Nerja and Ronda rather than the cheap trippery of Fuengirola,) the principal names that this music calls to mind for me are, on the one hand, Mompou and on the other Gershwin - while in between, I fancy, might be the virtuosic Creole Gottschalk, with even a little of Villa Lobos.

Both Fantasies - Cuban and Andalusian - are virtuosic, kaleidoscopic in their colourful patterns whose immediately appealing rhythms and melodies share the best of both worlds, classical and popular, stylish, compelling foot-tapping evocations of the warm-blooded characteristic rhythms of Spain and of Cuba - with darker-hued nocturnal episodes, redolent of nights in gardens where one can almost smel! the heady perfume of exotic blooms. Between these two works is a dark Nocturne, as rhapsodic as ‘The Maiden and the Nightingale’, whose incandescent climax is as passionate as any Spaniard could wish.

Framing these two works are two sets of shorter pieces. The first, a set of twelve Preludes, improvisatory exercises in piano sonorities, richly varied in style. One senses something Scriabinesque, certainly in the darker moments - but lighter moments prevail - and in the 4th Prelude one can scarcely refrain from humming ‘It aint necessarily so’!! There are many delights - in the wistful little tune of the 7th’s poco lento, and the amiable andante semplice swing-song of the 10th. The other set is entitled South American Suite - a pot-pourri of dance rhythms, opening with a genial Promenade whose little melody lingers long in the mind. In contrast both Saudade and Rumba have a melancholy air, but are followed by a love song and a thoroughly virtuosic evocation of Spain with some brilliantly executed florid decoration. This set, with the orgiastic Bacchanale which concludes, is colourful enough to win many friends.

The sleeve tells us little enough of this interesting composer - a Guildhall scholar and winner of the Mendelssohn scholarship at the age ot 21. But many will recall the broadcast of his impressive Violin Concerto, given on Radio 3 by Lorraine McAslan and the BBC Concert Orchestra under Barry Wordsworth, on March 10th 1995. This Concerto is a vibrantly beautiful work by this Wiltshire-born composer. It would be good to hear more.

Reviewer

Colin Scott-Sutherland

Reviewers

Rob Barnett

&

Colin Scott-Sutherland

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