More of Stevenson’s
piano music now finds its determined way onto CD and it’s in
The Three Lyric
Pieces are early works. Vox stellarum strikes slow
motion incandescence off the conflicting harmonies while the
Chorale Prelude for Jean Sibelius is sombre and bell-grumblingly
dark. The final Andante Sereno is peppery yet thoughtful.
Also early is the
set of Three Nativity Pieces with a gawky limping march
full of character, a crystal-glinting waltz with a slow liquid
scintillation and a regretful Pierrot carol.
Elegy for Liszt is deeply serious and at its climax rings
out in granitic majesty - a tipping point between Hungarian
song and Highlands Gaelic. Erik Chisholm would have loved this.
Suite was written for this soloist who at the time lived
in Ecclefechan, Thomas Carlyle’s birthplace. It is in eight
movements incorporating a set of variations. There’s a grave
aubade, a lyrically-loaded Souvenir de Chopin subtitled
Jane Welsh Carlyle listens to Chopin. The Scherzino
plays wittily with the shrouds of what sounds like a chuckling
romantic song from the turn of the 19th and 20th
centuries. The sun sets into a glimmering twilight which rather
like the Vox Stellarum sometimes recalls the astral-encrusted
firmaments of Urmis Sisask.
The Scottish folk
music settings are delicate yet durably strong. The composer’s
hallmark is there: an interplay between chiming melody in the
high register and an almost suave velvety level of activity
in the bass. Melody is to the fore as so often with Stevenson
and always presented with a subtle yet never effete poetry.
The liner notes
are by Stevenson’s friend and evangelising scholar Colin Scott-Sutherland
who edited the book on Ronald Stevenson - The Man
and His Music (see review).
This is a finely
documented disc and the booklet has been well designed.
This is music that
predominantly wheels in a kaleidoscope of constant slow motion
amid velvet-buffered gentle dissonances.
Other Stevenson reviews:
Piano Music of Scotland: