.......Concerto for violin and orchestra
3 Movements
Lionel Sainsbury's Violin Concerto, soloist Lorraine McAslan, violin - BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Barry Wordsworth
First Movement
Second Movement
Third Movement
This text will be replaced by the flash music player.

Widespread public and critical acclaim followed the first public performance of Lionel Sainsbury's Violin Concerto at the 2002 Worcester Three Choirs Festival. The soloist was Lorraine McAslan, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the festival’s chief conductor and artistic director Adrian Lucas.

"… a vibrantly beautiful work, alternating drama and poetry… lambent, melodious, inspirational…"
Rob Barnett, British Music Society

"…teeming with bravado and bravura"
Hilary Finch, The Times

One reviewer found style parallels with the Walton concerto, while another noted the work's Sibelian touches, writing of:

"… shimmering strings towards the end of the slow movement, and the rich sonorous tones of the solo in the low register".

In the first movement much play is made of characteristically syncopated rhythms, although there are also passages of flowing lyricism. Whilst the music has an improvisatory feel it is in fact a tightly organised sonata form.

The second movement, Andante mesto, opens with a tender, yearning melody for the violin which was the acorn for the whole work.

The expansive finale is charged with rhythmic vitality throughout, alternating symphonic tuttis with fiery virtuoso passages for the soloist.

Lorraine McAslan, Lionel Sainsbury,
Adrian Lucas and members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
at the public premiere of the
composer's Violin Concerto,
Worcester Cathedral, August 2002
photo: Keith Bramich
Prior to its public premiere at Worcester the work had generated much interest in a broadcast on Radio 3.

This was a studio recording, with Lorraine McAslan and the BBC Concert Orchestra under their then principal conductor Barry Wordsworth, now the orchestra's Conductor Laureate.

"… rhapsodic, beautifully crafted…"
Keith Bramich, Music and Vision

"… beautiful musical ideas… a virtuosic journey… striking… ethereal ..."
Jackie Harris, Worcester Evening News

"… a large scale work… highly virtuoso… ardent intensity and melancholy reflection… fiery, passionate, emphatic..."
Raymond Head, Tempo Magazine

Orchestration: 2 Fl (2nd doubling Picc), 2 Ob (2nd doubling CA), 2 Cl, 2 Bsn, 4 Hn, 2 Trpt, 3 Trbn, Tba, Timp, Hp, Strings

Top of Page
.........Concerto for cello and orchestra

Lionel Sainsbury’s Cello Concerto is a large-scale work of some 35 minutes duration.

The overall mood of the first movement is passionate and agitated; the cello later developing a noble, declamatory cantilena over a quiet string ostinato.

There follows a richly coloured Adagio, allowing full scope for the cello to sing. The orchestra twice comes to the fore with a surging, even slightly march-like theme.

The finale opens with a majestic tutti, paving the way for a dramatic cadenza for the soloist. Later in the movement comes a vigorous syncopated tune with strongly marked pizzicato accompaniment - described by the cellist Alban Gerhardt as "like a spiritual".

Orchestration: 2 Fl, 2 Ob (2nd doubling CA), 2 Cl, 2 Bsn, 4 Hn, 2 Trpt, 3 Trbn, Timp, SD, Hp, Strings

Top of Page
.........Symphonic Poem: Time of the Comet

A symphonic poem for large orchestra, written during the Spring of 1997, when the Hale Bopp comet was visible in the night sky.

The opening section suggests the comet's turbulent headlong motion through the Cosmos, and evokes the anticipation of Man, awaiting its first appearance for 4000 years. The more lyrical, reflective passages, especially the slow middle section, reflect his contemplative, even questing response as he views the phenomenon from Earth.

At the same time there is no strict programme, and the work can be appreciated in purely abstract terms. It could be thought of as a short symphony-in-one-movement, with clear elements of first movement allegro, slow movement, scherzo and finale. The latter draws the main themes together, and the work ends in a blaze of optimism.

Orchestration: 3 Fl 3rd doubling Picc, 2 Ob, CA, 2 Cl, BCl, 3 Bsn, 4 Hn, 3 Trpt, 3 Trbn, Tba, Timp, Perc, Hp, String

Top of Page

Allegro Risoluto awaits release in a recording by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Paul Murphy.

It is a passionate, rigorously developed symphonic movement, characterised by driving rhythms, and energetic, even virtuoso writing for the strings. It is very much in the English tradition of string works with echoes of both Tippett and Walton.

A minimum strength of 6/6/4/4/2 is required, though the score is suited to performance by larger forces; ideally the string section of a symphony orchestra.

Top of Page
.........Two Nocturnes for strings

Sainsbury's Two Nocturnes for strings were first performed by William Boughton and the English String Orchestra at Malvern in 1994.

In September 2006 they were released as part of Naxos 'English String Miniatures 6', with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Gavin Sutherland, garnering glowing reviews:

"… the most powerful music on this disc is that of the Two Nocturnes of Lionel Sainsbury… melody of Elgarian beauty…"
Colin Scott Sutherland, December 2006

"… lovely miniatures, unmistakably English in character… unusually beautifully written for the medium ..."
Gwyn Parry-Jones, October 2006

"… damask, dark and marmoreal - developing a Mahlerian heat… a grand melody, often piercingly emotional..."
Rob Barnett October 2006

the above 3 reviews in full at

"…the piece that will really haunt you is the first of the Two Nocturnes by Lionel Sainsbury, an ineffably touching miniature that makes one want to hear more from this gifted composer"
Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone, December 2006

"… darkly dramatic, the first anguished chromaticism, the second tentative lyricism…"
J.Scott Morrison, Middlebury, VT, USA, September 2006

"… a pair of dusky, but lovely Nocturnes by Lionel Sainsbury…"
Bob McQuiston November 2006 (www.clofo.com) October 2006

"… most sophisticated musically are Lionel Sainsbury's Two Nocturnes…"
David Vernier www.classicstoday.com

The score contains much divisi and requires a minimum strength of 6/6/4/4/2.

Top of Page
.........Cuban Dance No2 arr. for strings

An arrangement by the composer of the second of his Two Cuban Dances for piano. Released August 2007 on Dutton Epoch's British Light Music Premieres Vol.4 with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Paul Murphy.

"beautifully played and recorded... perhaps most immediately appealing of all is Lionel Sainsbury's Cuban Dance No.2. Its very real appeal has already been demonstrated by being taken up as an encore piece by Tasmin Little."
Andrew Lamb, Gramophone, November 2007
Top of Page