SEABOURNE Steps Volume 2: Studies of Invention
Peter Seabourne (b1960) has built a sizeable output since resuming composition in 2001 and these discs confirm no mean artistry within the solo piano domain. Studies of Invention takes its inspiration from Leonardo sketches in a series of 15 pieces. In his informative annotations, Seabourne speaks of having ‘a romantic sensibility…my art is a lyrical one’, yet the writing is of a technical and expressive range indicating a wide knowledge of 20th-century pianism (latter-day British instances might include Nicholas Maw’s Personae and Colin Matthews’s Studies in Velocity). To take one example from each of the three books, ‘Flying Machines’ (No 1) revels in incisive rhythmic agility, while ‘A Moth to the Light’ (No 8) has an accelerating harmonic intensity, before ‘This is the Way Birds Descend’ (No 15) concludes the cycle with its deftly propelled momentum. Giovanni Santini is equal to the music’s formidable demands.
On the other disc, Arabesques is a sequence of nine pieces which embodies the composer’s responses to aspects of the Alhambra as viewed through paintings by his aunt (some reproduced in the booklet). ‘The Bright Window’ (No 1) is a maelstrom of vibrant rhythmic energy, while ‘Fountains’ (No 5) is an airy interplay of capricious motifs and ‘Daydream’ (No 9) evokes the vaulted ceilings of the palace in waves of headily ascending figuration. Michael Bell’s thoughtful brand of virtuosity is more pleasingly conveyed by the recorded sound; the disc also finds room for five of Granados’s Danzas españolas, rendered with a telling sensuous reserve, and Falla’s Fantasia bética. It’s for the Seabourne, though, that these discs are worth investigating.