The Chacony was commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival and first performed there in 1988 by the American pianist Leon Fleisher. In rising to the challenge of writing for left hand alone, Saxton has reduced the basic material (the underlying ground bass theme) to the simplest element: a whole tone scale. Thus, the opening section gradually reveals, via a clear indication that D major is the central tonality of the work, the scale through a series of hesitant gestures, the main body of the piece bursting out of the tensions created in the intervals of the scale, especially the tritone (which plays an important part in the melodic version throughout).
As with, say, the finest variation sets or grounds of a composer like Byrd, the considerable virtuosity of the keyboard writing always stems from the musical or intellectual stimulus, and is never mere empty show. This is a virtuosic response to the challenge of the imposed limitations, beautifully written for piano and culminating in a final section in which D is once more resoundingly affirmed as the centre of the work, though, with equal resonance, the tritone has the last word.
Duration c. 6mins.