The Scottish pianist Ronald Stevenson (born in 1928), a composer-performer in the grand tradition of Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninov, has written a generous quantity of music for his own instrument, ranging from tiny miniatures to his best-known work, the monumental Passacaglia on DSCH, This first of a series of recordings begins with an album inspired by the music of Scotland itself.
Christopher Guild, piano
Catalogue No: TOCC0272EAN/UPC: 5060113442727Release Date: 10.03.2015Composer: Ronald Stevenson Artists: Christopher Guild
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Colin Clarke :
Great joy! Excuse my uncharacteristic enthusiasm (we are instructed to use exclamation points Über-sparingly here at Fanfare Towers) but this is Volume One of a series of Stevenson piano music series. … Best known perhaps for his huge Passacaglia on DSCH, Ronald Stevenson is evidently equally at home with the miniature. The first item here, A Wheen Tunes fae Bairns tae Spiel (or “A few tunes for children to play” for those less accustomed to the Doric dialect of Scotland), was interestingly the first piece the composer wrote after the Passacaglia mentioned above. There is a distinct Bartókian slant to some of this writing, although the third (“Reel”) is more definably Scottish. The tripping along of the final “Spiel” is well judged by Guild. The grating dissonances of the 20-minute A Scottish Triptych (1959−67) that follow immediately on may come as something of a shock. … [“Keening song for a Makar: In Memorian Francis George Scott”:] The work is unremittingly serious. The depth of the recording (produced by the pianist and with sound engineer Christopher Tann) certainly adds to the experience, the deep tremolos that conclude it most telling. … The “Heroic Song for Hugh MacDairmid,” with its rather manic glissandos, represents the most advanced writing so far; when single lines emerge from such textures, they hold great power. Written to mark MacDairmid’s 75th birthday, this is a major piece that deserves greater currency. The final panel, “Chorale-Pibroch for Sorley MacLean,” celebrates MacLean, the Raasay poet and friend of MacDairmid. The piano strings are played directly here to imitate the Celtic harp. The effect is simply beautiful, as it is used on a high-lying, resonant section giving the whole an aura of otherworldliness. … A theme by Irish composer Seán Ó Riada (1913−1971) forms the basis for Stevenson’s 1970 “Rosary” of variations. … Lovely though the folk settings are, this is this piece that was most rewarding for the present writer. Interestingly, this work receives its premiere recording on this disc, something which makes one wonder what other treasures await. … A welcome from all angles with open arms, then. —Fanfare Magazine, September 2015
Stephen Wright :
“What a surprise. About the last word I’d use to describe Ronald Stevenson’s music is “charming”. Imposing, impressive, profound? Sure. But never charming. But this release has proved me wrong and shown me a side of this composer I never knew existed. … The longest and most important work here is the 20-minute Scottish Triptych, made up of a keening song, heroic song, and choralepibroch, dedicated to three fellow Scotsmen: a composer and two poets. … Altogether this is the most stirring and emotionally compelling music I’ve heard from Stevenson and alone worth the price of the disc. … The other big work here is the 16-minute Rosary of Variations, recorded here for the first time. It’s an interesting concept for a work, mostly meditative and contemplative as one would expect, but with moments of great glory and exultation. … The other half of the recital is 21 Scottish and Irish folk song settings, ranging from half a minute to about four minutes each. Most are fully tonal and technically in the grasp of amateur pianists, unlike the two large works; but sometimes Stevenson incorporates cranky and crunchy dissonance into his settings, so that I think of him as a Scottish Bartok. These are lovable little gems. Gorgeous Steinway, strong and rich bass, clear treble—absolutely everything I could want in a piano, and Guild is a fantastic advocate for this almost unknown music. I can’t wait for Volume 2.” —American Record Guide, 09 September 2015
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