Saxton: Chacony; Piano Sonata; Hortus Musicae, Books 1 & 2; Lullaby for Rosa

Clare Hammond (Toccata Classics)

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Saxton Chacony; Piano Sonata; Hortus Musicae, Books 1 & 2; Lullaby for Rosa
Clare Hammond (piano)
Toccata Classics TOCC0458 55:44 mins

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Robert Saxton, celebrated for the unswerving integrity and intellect he brings to his music, is perhaps best known for his visionary vocal works. This fine disc, beautifully performed by Clare Hammond, sheds welcome light on the composer’s solo piano music and brings together Saxton’s interests in early Christian mysticism, Medieval and Renaissance music, as well as his tonal and serialist training.

Earlier works begin the disc, including the tautly-structured Piano Sonata (1981) and Chacony for Piano Left Hand (1988). The latter opens to cautious whole-tone scales before swirling with dense and majestic counterpoint and receives an exhilarating reading from Hammond. But at the disc’s centre are premiere recordings of Books 1 and 2 of Hortus Musicae (Garden of Music), composed in 2013 and 2015, which explore the notion of the garden as a ‘sacred space’. These two collections are enchanting: at once playful and serious, exploratory, intellectually vigorous and, very often, deeply poignant. The disc closes with the affectionate miniature Lullaby for Rosa (2016), written to mark the birth of Hammond’s daughter, and standing as testament to the musical understanding shared between performer and composer.

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Kate Wakeling