Stevenson: Passacaglia on DSCH

COMPOSERS: Stevenson
ALBUM TITLE: Stevenson
WORKS: Passacaglia on DSCH
PERFORMER: Ronald Stevenson (piano)
This classic recording (impossibly hard to find until now) proclaims that, for once, here’s a work which reall is as astonishing as legend has it. The Passacaglia’s 21 continuous sections spring from a short, seven-bar theme derived from the initials of Shotakovich’s name. Around and across this, Stevenson builds an enormous set of variations of quite fantastic inventiveness, imaginations and range of reference. Exceptional moments include an evocation of African drumming (beaten out by the palm of the hand on the piano strings – the idea sounds daft but it works mesmerisingly); a Chopinesque Nocturne, exquisitely poised; and a smouldering, whirring, guitar-like Fandango. The whole structure culminates in a massive triple fugue, plus a final section that then extends the music’s reach into ever more spacious regions. Yet the Passacaglia wears its formidableness lightly: time does indeed fly, and the theme’s constant presence doesn’t enervate (well not often0. Stevenson’s playing is a phenomenon in itself: his balance of spaciousness and momentum is masterly, his virtuoso firepower never abrasive, and the range of light and shade enthralling. What a pianist! And what a work!