English composer LIONEL SAINSBURY’s music has generated widespread public and critical acclaim. His work is influenced by South American rhythms, jazz, blues and flamenco, as well as by the Western classical tradition.
Born in Wiltshire in the UK in 1958, Sainsbury began to play the piano at an early age and soon started to compose his own music. He studied composition with Patric Standford and piano with Edith Vogel at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, winning the Guildhall School Composition Prize and several awards for piano playing. At the age of 21 he was awarded a Mendelssohn Scholarship, which brought him into contact with figures as diverse as Edmund Rubbra and John McCabe, and in Paris with Henri Dutilleux. Lionel spent several months in Paris around this time, teaching piano and working at the Théâtre du Châtelet.
Since then his music has been recorded on Navona Records, Naxos, Dutton Epoch, EM Records, and EMI Classics for Pleasure. It has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM, Radio France, NHK TV/Radio in Japan, and many channels in the US. In 2014 Lionel was Jim Svejda’s guest in a major feature about his work on KUSC, Los Angeles.
In 2002 his Violin Concerto was premiered at the Worcester (UK) Three Choirs Festival, with soloist Lorraine McAslan and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adrian Lucas. McAslan has recorded the concerto with the BBC Concert Orchestra under Barry Wordsworth. The premiere recording of Lionel Sainsbury’s Cello Concerto followed in 2011, with soloist Raphael Wallfisch and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Martin Yates.
In 2017 Lionel traveled to the Czech Republic for the premiere recording of his orchestral piece Time of the Comet, with the Moravian Philharmonic under their chief conductor Petr Vronský. Other artists who have performed Lionel’s music include pianist Mark Bebbington, clarinetist Anna Hashimoto and guitarist Craig Ogden.
Also active as a pianist, Lionel’s concerts have included the music of Bach, Chopin, Schumann, Debussy, Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Ravel, programmed alongside his own compositions. From 2011 there was a greater focus on performance, with concerts at venues including Oxford’s Music in the Vale, the Dean & Chadlington Summer Music Festival and the English Music Festival. He also recorded his second solo piano album SUNLIGHT & STORMS.
In 2019 and 2021 he gave private recitals at the invitation of Sir Ben and Lady Kingsley, and while on holiday in Argentina in 2014 he included two of his Five Tangos in a concert in aid of the Hogar San José hospice in Buenos Aires.
Recent years have also seen a return to composition with a String Quartet (2018), a Sonata for solo cello – written during the Covid lockdowns in 2020 – and a Duo Sonata for violin and cello (2022).
Lionel lives and works in the English Oxfordshire countryside. He maintains a private piano teaching practice and his interests and enthusiasms outside music include snooker and table tennis.