Ronald Stevenson - his lyrical side Jan 30, 2013 19:44:02 GMT -5
Post by Deleted on Jan 30, 2013 19:44:02 GMT -5
Although he was not born there and his mother was English, Ronald Stevenson is said to be one of Scotland's most heavy-weight composers. However, as recitalists such as Murray McLachlan repeatedly demonstrate, there is a more lyrical side to the great man. But the fact that he entitled one piece "Passacaglia on DSCH" is enough to put many persons off permanently. It is almost as long as Sorabji's average I understand, so it is sad that I will never hear it. Persons not so scrupulous though will discover real joy in "Sheena" Nicoll's well-played, broad survey of the other side of Stevenson:
01. 3 Lyric Pieces - No. 1. Vox Stellarum [0:05:00.62]
02. No. 2. Chorale Prelude for Jean Sibelius [0:06:00.67]
03. No. 3. Andante sereno [0:05:30.25]
04. 3 Nativity Pieces - No. 1. Gold: Children's March [0:03:56.50]
05. No. 2. Frankincense: Arabesque [0:06:29.32]
06. No. 3. Myrrh: Elegiac Carol [0:04:34.46]
07. Symphonic Elegy for Liszt [0:14:14.59]
08. A Carlyle Suite - I. Aubade (Morning Song) [0:02:00.50]
09. II. Souvenir de Salon: Jane Welsh Carlyle listens to Chopin [0:06:42.16]
10. III. Study in Historical Styles on a Theme by Frederick the Great: Theme - Variation 1. In Baroque Style [0:00:46.32]
11. III. Study in Historical Styles on a Theme by Frederick the Great: Variation 2. In Rococo Style [0:00:46.13]
12. III. Study in Historical Styles on a Theme by Frederick the Great: Variation 3. In Romantic Style [0:00:43.72]
13. III. Study in Historical Styles on a Theme by Frederick the Great: Variation 4. In Impressionist Style [0:01:16.53]
14. III. Study in Historical Styles on a Theme by Frederick the Great: Variation 5. Expressionist Style [0:02:06.70]
15. III. Study in Historical Styles on a Theme by Frederick the Great: Variation 6. Sketch for a New Classicality [0:01:35.46]
16. IV. Scherzino - Schottische: Jeannie's Wit [0:01:17.25]
17. V. Serenade (Evening Song) [0:01:57.49]
18. Scottish Folk Music Settings (excerpts) - No. 2. Waly, Waly [0:02:55.02]
19. No. 3. A Rosebud by my Early Walk [0:02:18.21] (well!)
20. No. 8. The Hielan Widow's Lament [0:02:12.22]
21. No. 9. Hard is my Fate [0:02:55.72]
22. No. 10. Ne'erday Sang [0:02:55.25]
The Liszt looks the meatiest there does it not. Stevenson studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now incorporated in the Royal Northern College of Music), under Richard Hall and Iso Elinson, graduating with distinction in 1948. As author and performer he has been instrumental in reviving the works of Ferruccio Busoni, and is in several places said to have corresponded with Percy Grainger - it might be interesting to find out why and how often, and what it was they wrote about.
In 2007 Stevenson completed a choral symphony, "Ben Dorain," on Hugh MacDiarmid's translation of the poem of that name by Duncan Ban MacIntyre. This work, for large chorus, chamber choir, chamber orchestra and a second, symphony, orchestra, was begun in the 1960s and laid aside for many years. Schœnberg and Schubert were obliged to do much the same sort of thing; to have finally completed it is admirable.
Stevenson is noted as a teacher. He was senior lecturer in composition at the University of Cape Town in the mid 1960s (of course those were the days of secret intimacy when the darkies knew their place), he delivered seminars at a "Juilliard School" in the Western Hemisphere (northern branch), and was responsible for a course entitled "The Political Piano" at the University of York. Are there any records of what that course was all about? How exactly can a piano be political? Perhaps Mr. Stevenson forgot for a moment that, as John Osborne has explained, the most excellent property of Art is the extinction of the artist's personality by his Work.
So what does the esteemed Mr. Lebrecht have to say? "A compelling figure in Edinburgh salons, nationalist and leftist by conviction, Stevenson possesses the kind of character that arouses either passionate devotion or weary indifference. Much of his music is on Scotch themes. Dodecaphonic Bonfire for solo pianoforte (1988) is a commentary on Schœnberg." Ah! That would be the one to try. And it is startling is it not to discover that there are salons in Edinburgh - what happens there exactly? According to the O.E.D., a salon is "The reception-room of a Parisian lady of fashion; hence, a reunion of notabilities at the house of such a lady; also, a similar gathering in other capitals." Perhaps a list might be essayed, showing composers who have visited salons and composers who have not and what they lost by not being compelling.
Here is a link to the Ronald Stevenson Society: www.ronaldstevensonsociety.org.uk/index.asp