There is nothing new about composers performing their own work – it was the norm rather than the exception in classical music for many years. Gradually, though, the roles separated, notably during the 20th century; now, in many cases, they are coming together again. This can be especially useful when composers have specific ideas about how their music – now frequently a blend of traditional classical forms and ideas with those of pop, rock, folk, “world music” and other forms – ought to sound. Lionel Sainsbury certainly knows what he wants from his piano works, which he performs enthusiastically on a new Navona CD. There are two extended works here and five shorter ones. The lengthy pieces – actually assemblages rather than long-form works – are Five Tangos and Ten Moments Musicaux. The tangos partake both of the traditional dance form and of the form as reimagined by Astor Piazzolla, and their tempo variations show just how versatile the form can be. The Ten Moments Musicaux all bear standard tempo indications (although one, ondeggiante or “undulating,” is rather unusual) and are all short, poised explorations of widely varying moods and styles. Some of Sainsbury’s themes are reminiscent of Gershwin’s, but the Two Cuban Dances here only marginally resemble Gershwin’s Cuban Overture – they are simple, rhythmic and effective. Canto Ostinato is brief and to the point as well. Sea Storm is intense and virtuosic; Incantation pulls listeners into an engaging sound world; and Meditation is even more introspective, closing this well-played album thoughtfully.
: Sunlight & Storms