"The English composer Peter Seabourne (born 1960) has had an eventful life. After his extensive studies and with several early works under his belt, he ceased composition in 1989. He felt increasingly ill-at-ease in the realm of so-called New Music, which was out of line with his language. For 12 years he wrote nothing more, until he heard the piano playing of Michael Bell, which drew him back to composition. Then in 2011 the turning point came when the Italian recording label "Sheva Collection“ provided him with the opportunity to write pieces for "Sheva Contemporary“. Subsequently five out of the intended six CDs have so far appeared, presenting piano music by Peter Seabourne. He calls this series "Steps“, each recorded by different pianists and comprising works inspired by particular external experiences and influences.
Volume I is the latest project in this series. And yes, this is music that belongs firmly in the category of "new“, with harsh outbursts and a thoroughly original sound language developed by Seabourne. And should one wish to speak of influences, one will certainly find these in the sound world of modern Late Romantics, perhaps even in Scriabin and others. Seabourne plays with sound progressions, and uses the resonances of the instrument generated by the sustaining pedal even in Volume I of his anthology. Many of the pieces such as "Still“ or the almost 15 minute-long "El Suspiro del Moro“ - are rather dark and questioning in mood. This is hard to understand as a cycle, though it is in any case music that stirs the emotions and provides food for thought. With that it is, however, not lacking in dramatic passages. Seabourne explores the possibilities of the instrument without going beyond the play of the keys.
Volume 2 is inspired by the discoveries and inventions of Leonardo da Vinci and is correspondingly fascinatingly lively, wild, but also descriptive: "Old Man with Water Studies“ or "Perspective and Disappearance“ are titles which only superficially describe what is playing in the background. These works are hard to master and really difficult in character and rhythmic agogics so not for the advanced amateur pianist.
In the quite short span of the "Arabesques“ in Volume 3, Seabourne's romantic leaning is evident, although he never loses the modernity of his sound world.
And any who expect to find in Volume 4, entitled "Libro di Canti Italiano“, a flowing and wonderful melodic world of Italian origin, will here too be put right concerning the sound world of this composer. Even in the "Piccolo Canto d'Amore Tremante“ a pulsing rhythm prevails beneath the surface, also evincing a sense of constant tension.
And when one arrives at Volume 5, consisting of the "Sixteen Scenes before a Crucifixion“, one hears a different Seabourne, a composer from the high and splendid dramatic line, a composer who understands how to alternate in mood between high drama and moments of reflection. This volume is perhaps the most gripping of the collection.
This is a really interesting piano world in which the listener is immersed, one written by a contemporary composer, and one which reveals an immense diversity of sources of inspiration, whilst of course maintaining its compositional stance. The first recording (Volume 2) appeared in 2012 and the most recent, of Volume I, at the end of last year.
It will be interesting to see what will follow from Seabourne in Volume 6, because this "Steps“ series provides a continuing thread through his life so far. These are almost all cyclical series conceived by Seabourne, which convey the listener into a new soundworld. Only rarely have we had from a modern composer a world of piano music which is so cohesive to the ear, and pursued with such consistency. At all events, Seabourne's piano music is worth hearing and to be recommended!"