Ian WILSON (b. 1964) Stations (2006/7)
Matthew Schellhorn (piano)
rec. Curtis Auditorium, CIT Cork School of Music, 1-3 June 2011 DIATRIBE RECORDINGS DIACD016 [72:41]
Ian Wilson's large-scale piano cycle Stations is a substantial span of music playing for over seventy minutes. It is based on rather than inspired by the Fourteen Stations of the Cross: from Christ's condemnation by Pilate to his burial in the tomb. This long work is arranged into four books that may be performed separately although the real impact is when played as a single unit.
In this work Wilson has pared his music-making to what may often amount to a bare minimum. The music consists variously in repeated notes and/or chords, downward or upward scales more often than not suggesting change-ringing. As mentioned, the music and its various sections are based on the Fourteen Stations of the Cross although the music is never programmatic or descriptive. The layout is as follows: Book One (Jesus is condemned to death, Jesus carries his cross, Jesus falls for the first time), Book Two (Jesus meets his mother, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross, Veronica offers Jesus her veil to wipe his brow, Jesus falls for the second time), Book Three (Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, Jesus falls for the third time, Jesus is stripped of his clothes, Jesus is nailed to the cross) and Book Four (Jesus dies on the cross, Jesus is taken down from the cross, Jesus is buried in the tomb). That said, it would be idle to try to relate the music too closely to any of the stations. Much is left to the listener's imagination.
However, as already mentioned, the music is quite often tied together by recurring motifs rather than themes that run throughout the entire work, the most prominent of them being what I like to refer to as the change-ringing motif. The final station (Jesus is buried in the tomb) – by far the longest section – is almost exclusively built on that motif.
This is a substantial work whose music is intricately worked-out. I am sure that it would take a long and detailed analysis to bring out all the subtle inter-relationships of the various elements that make this imposing structure so compelling.
Matthew Schellhorn's committed approach is aided by his unfailing technique to bring out the best of this extraordinary construction. His beautifully shaped performance is also well served by an excellent recording allowing for a natural piano sound that never sounds aggressive even in the more forceful moments.
A seventy-minute piano piece may be too much for some of you to absorb in one sitting but each book can be listened to separately, several times if need be, before throwing oneself into a hearing of the whole.
Ian Wilson's Stations is a major addition to the piano repertoire of the twenty-first century.