Sunday, November 05, 2006

'Key recording' award for Stevenson recording in Penguin Guide to CDs 2006


STEVENSON,Ronald (born 1928)

Passacaglia on D.S.C.H.

*** Divine Art 25013. McLachlan

It was the appearance of John Ogdon’s remarkable LP set of the Passacaglia on DSCH in 1967 that alerted collectors to Ronald Stevenson’s music. He composed the Passacaglia between 1960 and 1962 and, like Sorabji’s Opus Clavicembalisticum or Busoni’s Fantasia contrappuntistica (Stevenson is a keen and persuasive advocate of that composer), it is some-thing of a tour de force. It is a mighty set of variations on the four-note motif D-S-C-H derived from Shostakovich’s monogram, lasting without a break for some 80 minutes. Later on in the score Stevenson introduces another four-note anagram, B-A-C-H, perhaps a reference to Busoni’s Fantasia contrapuntistica. When he presented Shostakovich with the score at the 1962 Edinburgh Festival, he said that the combination of Russian and German motifs symbolized his hope that the two nations, and mankind generally, would live in harmony. The twelfth section cleverly alludes to the microtonal scale of the Highland bagpipes and incorporates a seventeenth-century Pibroch Cumha ne Cloinne (‘Lament for the children’) and there is a formidable climatic triple fugue in which the Dies irae surfaces. In the 1960s Sir William Walton hailed the piece as ‘really tremendous – magnificent – I can’t remember having been so excited by a new work for a very long time’. Murray McLachlan is an impressive exponent of this score and he is very well recorded. (Some years ago he recorded the two piano concertos that Stevenson wrote about this time, so he is completely a tuned to this music).


At 2:33 pm, Blogger pearpie said...

Having never heard Stevenson's own recording of this piece I am happy to concur with his ( Stevenson's) own assessment of Murray McLahclan's powers.."He has no greater appreciator of his pianism than myself2.This is a masterful performance of a truly great work!


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