Robert Saxton in the 1990s

Wright, D. C. H. (2001) Robert Saxton in the 1990s. Tempo (215) pp. 2-6. ISSN 0040-2982 (print) 1478-2286 (online)


The recent NMC recording of chamber music by Robert Saxton has broadened our knowledge of his oeuvre, complementing the perspective on his music that had been opened up by recordings of his orchestral works and the opera Caritas in the early 1990s. Certainly, the period 1990 to his fortieth birthday in 1993 represented a highpoint in terms of public recognition, but in recent years much of Saxton's composition has been in the more private sphere of chamber or solo music, or in the less prominent medium of choral writing, and it has received less sustained attention than its quality deserves. But while most composers are subject to fluctuations of interest, the not unalloyed distinction of being called a sucéss d'estime is a very real hazard of today's musical climate, especially for a composer who writes the sort of serious music that Saxton does; and from being frequently programmed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, his work currently seems to present less of a fashionable surface while continuing to be highly regarded by many serious commentators. But Saxton has made creative use of the 1990s as a time for thinking through the implications of his earlier music and reconsidering aspects of his style and approach to structure. This article looks at some of the music of almost the decade from Caritas (1991) to his current major project, The Legend of the Wandering Jew, an opera being conceived specifically for the medium of Radio. In the music of this period, Saxton has continued to demonstrate the ability to harness his wide intellectual interests to an essentially consistent compositional style and a single-minded artistic vision.

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