Steps piano cycle series (Seabourne)

Steps (piano cycle series) is a set of large-scale piano works written by British composer Peter Seabourne (b.1960), currently standing at 9 volumes (158 pieces) of around 8 hours total duration. Each cycle is based around a theme and comprises a sequence of often poetically-entitled movements.

  • Volume 1: An anthology for piano – a collection of 12 pieces composed between 2001 and 2004[1]
  • Volume 2: Studies of Invention – 15 movements inspired by the life, work, writings and investigations of Leonardo da Vinci[2]
  • Volume 3: Arabesques – 9 pieces inspired by a visit to The Alhambra, Granada, and a collaboration with the composer’s aunt, the painter Ann Seabourne,[3] presented at The Clothworkers Hall, Leeds in June 2014[4]
  • Volume 4: Libro di Canti Italiano – 19 pieces reflecting aspects of the Italian character, and the musical interests of its dedicatee Giuseppe Modugno[5]
  • Volume 5: Sixteen Scenes before a Crucifixion – an exploration of impending trauma inspired by the Passiontide paintings of Caravaggio
  • Volume 6: Toccatas and Fantasias – 12 pieces written to be played alongside the Toccatas of Johann Sebastian Bach.
  • Volume 7: Dances on the Head of a Pin – 38 dances, each with a sense of restriction or awkwardness
  • Volume 8: My Song in October – 19 pieces with titles from poems about falling leaves – in memory of the composer’s wife.
  • Volume 9: Les Fleurs de la Maladie – 18 pieces related to the late flower paintings by Edouard Manet and the composer’s wife, Marcelle Seabourne.
Series of large scale piano cycles by Peter Seabourne

Title page of Steps Volume 9: Les Fleurs de la Maladie.
Painting: Marigolds on a Blue Chair (2018) by Marcelle Seabourne

The first volume (2001-4) marked the composer’s return to composition after a 12 year silence.[6] Originally simply a series of standalone pieces, it was only subsequently gathered into an anthology. However, from the second volume onwards the works are conceived as integrated single spans in the manner of Janacek‘s On an Overgrown Path, or Schumann‘s Carnaval.

The Italian CD label Sheva has so far recorded volumes 1-5 with pianists Minjeong Shin, Giovanni Santini, Michael Bell, Fabio Menchetti and Alessandro Viale.[7] Volume 6 is released in May 2022 by Konstantin Lifschitz on Willowhayne Records, and 7-9 are scheduled for recording during 2022. The CDs have been reviewed in Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, Musical Opinion, International Piano, Piano News, Hudební rozhledy and many other magazines. Numerous live performances have taken place in Europe, Armenia, The United States of America and Japan, including by Alessandro Viale, Fabio Menchetti, Konstantin Lifschitz, Minjeong Shin, Michael Bell, Bethel Balge, Giuseppe Modugno, Haruko Seki, Chantal Balestri, Simone Rugani, Andrea Emanuele, Ettore Strangio, Giordano De Nisi, Emanuele Stracchi, Paolo Rinaldi, Barbara Panzarella, Giulia Grassi, Francesca Fierro, Isabella Gori, Letitia Amodio, Francesca Lauri, Sarah Vella, Daphne Delicata, Alvaro Siculiana, Julian Chan, Tsovinar Suflyan and Mikhail Shilyaev.

The composer’s musical language is loosely tonal but is often stretched to include elements of polytonality, modality and free atonality. In Musical Opinion, Richard Whitehouse wrote of “a demonstrably Romantic rhetoric with an always audible and yet never facile approach to tonality”.[8] A striking feature throughout is the use of rhythm, described by one reviewer as “amazingly inventive” [of Volume 2].[9] This involves a widespread, subtle stretching of both individual beats and metre giving the music a feeling of flux and ongoing rubato.

. . . Steps piano cycle series (Seabourne) . . .

Volume 1: An anthology for piano (2001-4):

  • Greeting!
  • Still
  • The Little White Girl
  • El Suspiro del Moro
  • Split The Lark…
  • Suspended Journeys
    • I. 19
    • II. Black
    • III. A Touch
  • Little Scene
  • Over The Ocean
  • Awake!
  • The Sun – just touched the Morning!
  • In Winter
    • 1. Im Windesweben
    • 2. An Baches Ranft
    • 3. Winter Landscape with Rocks
    • 4. Noch zwingt mich treue
    • 5. The Lark in Winter
    • 6. The Rose in Winter
  • Trois Petits Adieux
    • 1. (Crotchet=76)
    • 2. Playful yet poignant
    • 3. Sombre

Volume 2: Studies of Invention (2007):

  • Flying Machines
  • Sixty Beggars
  • Old Man with Water Studies
  • Study of a Woman’s Hands
  • The Kite of the Cradle
  • Tank
  • Polishing Imperfections in Glass
  • A Moth to the Light
  • Perspectives of Disappearance
  • La Scapigliata
  • The Existence of Nothingness
  • The Impossibility of Perpetual Motion
  • Lenses for Looking at the Moon
  • Study of a Deluge
  • This is the Way Birds Descend

Volume 3: Arabesques (2012):

  • 1. The Bright Window
  • 2. Generalife – daybreak (I am the garden, revealed in beauty every morning)
  • 3. Melted silver, pearls, tears, clouds
  • 4. Dark Day
  • 5. Fountains
  • 6. Hamann Baths – blue secrets
  • 7. Mid-Afternoon -The Red Fort
  • 8. Water Gardens – the dark watchers – early evening
  • 9. Dream – domes of mocárabes

Volume 4: Libro di Canti Italiano (2011)

  • Canto della Vita
  • Domande
  • Viaggio di Notte
  • Piccolo Canto d’Amore Tremante
  • Piccolo Canto delle Gocce di Pioggia
  • Canto I miei Sogni
  • Passi Sbagliati – Canzone Bacchica
  • Canto della Ragazza da Toulouse
  • Canto delle Farfalle
  • Carillon Triste
  • Canto d’Ammutinamento
  • Notturno
  • Canto Burbero
  • Canto Lontano
  • Anche gli Uccelli – Souvenir de Bertinoro
  • Canto Oscuro
  • Canto delle Foglie Cadenti
  • Canzonetta in Stile Antico (omaggio da Robin Holloway)
  • Canto Gioioso

Volume 5: Sixteen Scenes Before a Crucifixion (2014)

  • no.1
  • no.2
  • no 3
  • no.4
  • no.5
  • no.6
  • no.7
  • no.8
  • no.9
  • no.10
  • no.11
  • no.12
  • no.13
  • no.14
  • no.15
  • no.16

Volume 6: Toccatas and Fantasias (2017)

  • Toccata no.1
  • Fantasia Lachryma
  • Toccata no.2
  • Fantasia Tragica
  • Toccata no.3
  • Fantasia Tenebrosa
  • Toccata no.4
  • Fantasia Meditativa
  • Toccata no.5
  • Fantasia Malinconica
  • Toccata no.6
  • Aria Sarabanda con variazioni

Volume 7: Dances on the Head of a Pin (2019)

  • 1. Spanish Sun Dance
  • 2. Sand Dance
  • 3. Galumph
  • 4. Musing Dance
  • 5. Uncertain Steps
  • 6. Doll’s Dance
  • 7. River Dance
  • 8. Weaving Dance
  • 9. Minuet, or even a Sarabande
  • 10. Snake Dance
  • 11. One False Step
  • 12. Spiteful Dance
  • 13. How Still the Dancer Lies
  • 14. Dance of Death
  • 15. Lollop
  • 16. Un-Ravelling Dance
  • 17. Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight!
  • 18. Impatient Mazurka
  • 19. Pas des Deux: L’Ancien et la Jeune Danseuse
  • 20. First Attempts at a Pirhouette
  • 21. The Lead Dancer Shows his Mettle
  • 22. Three Legs
  • 23. Pavan for a Revived Princess
  • 24. Danse Françaix?
  • 25. Bacchanalian Whirl
  • 26. Slow Movement
  • 27. The Amazing Dance of the Peacock Spider
  • 28. Tread Softly…
  • 29. Stamping Dance
  • 30. Helter Skelter
  • 31. Hop of Hope – with Harp
  • 32. Carefully, Carefully! Slow Sword Dance
  • 33. Snap Shot – Ecossaise
  • 34. With How Sad Steps
  • 35. Hobble
  • 36. Unreel
  • 37. Before a Tarantella
  • 38. Tarantella

Volume 8: My Song in October (2021)

  • 1. Komorebi
  • 2. How beautifully it falls
  • 3. At the fall of the leaf
  • 4. When the leaves are flying
  • 5. This leaf
  • 6. When the rose is dead
  • 7. The drifting leaf
  • 8. One by one
  • 9. On the wings of the breeze
  • 10. The leaves are falling
  • 11. Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
  • 12. As a dead leaf
  • 13. The wind scatters the golden leaves!
  • 14. Every breath
  • 15. Listen…
  • 16. After Autumn, Winter
  • 17. The wind whispers in dry leaves
  • 18. This sprig of heather
  • 19. Who’ll toll the bell?

Volume 9: Les Fleurs de la Maladie (2021)

  • An Empty Bench – My Garden (1881)
  • Snowdrops (now is the globe shrunk tight)
  • Imagined Bouquet from Berthe Morisot
  • Helleborus Foetidus (hope in winter)
  • Imagined Bouquet from Suzanne Manet
  • Tulips (the flame)
  • Imagined Bouquet from Antonin Proust
  • Dandelions in flower and in seed (any way the wind blows)
  • Imagined Bouquet from Stéphane Mallarmé
  • Delphinium (nothing can restrain this heart)
  • Imagined Bouquet from Victorine Meurent
  • Lilies on a Windowsill (outside-in)
  • Imagined Bouquet from Charles Baudelaire
  • Rosa Glauca (departures)
  • Imagined Bouquet from Émmanuel Chabrier
  • Marigolds on a blue chair (last summer)
  • Imagined Bouquet from Méry Laurent
  • An Empty Chair – My Garden (2020)

. . . Steps piano cycle series (Seabourne) . . .

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