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At the round earth's imagined corners

author of text

Robert Saxton (b1953) is Head of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. he has studied composition with Luciano Berio, Elisabeth Lutyens, and at Cambridge with Robin Holloway and at Oxford with Robert Sherlay Johnson. Saxton was a Fullbright Fellow at Princeton University (1985-1986). He has attracted much attention as a composer and has received many important commissions, including several from the BBC. His Concerto for Orchestra was performed at the BBC Promenade Concerts in 1984, and more recently Glyndebourne commissioned his Paraphrase on Mozart’s Idomeneo (1991). Saxton has commissions for a Trumpet Concerto for John Wallace and the London Sinfonietta, and a Cello Concerto for Rostropovich and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Saxton’s choral work At the round earth’s imagined corners was commissioned by Michael Kaye for the opening service of the City of London Festival held in St Paul’s Cathedral, 5 July 1992. The composer has written of the work:

The poem is a sonnet, with the normal break after the eight of the fourteen lines. The first part is set for nine-part a cappella choir and begins over a pedal note A, the music representing the round earth and its imagined corners (the clashing B sung by the basses). It develops in dramatic fashion, the trebles at first representing the angels’ trumpets. The music, while being harmonically directional, is largely homophonic or ‘layered’. The second part matches Donne’s change of mood—the drama and vision of Resurrection give way to a personal prayer by the sinner. The choir is now in eight parts and the texture predominantly homophonic as the text moves from ‘But let them sleep Lord’ to the final ‘As if thou hadst sealed my pardon with thy blood’. The initial A of the anthem has flowered into full-blooded A major, representing the fulfilment and hope of salvation for which Donne pleads so powerfully and eloquently.
The anthem is dedicated to John Scott and the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral, and to my partner Teresa Cahill, for whom St Paul’s means so much.

from notes by William McVicker © 1992


The English Anthem, Vol. 3
CDA66618Archive Service


Track 8 on CDA66618 [4'54] Archive Service

Track-specific metadata for CDA66618 track 8

Recording date
2 July 1991
Recording venue
St Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Arthur Johnson
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. The English Anthem, Vol. 3 (CDA66618)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: February 1993
    Deletion date: June 2008
    Archive Service
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