RONALD STEVENSON The Transcendental Tradition
A recital of transcriptions given in The Recital Hall, University of British Columbia, Vancouver 21st April 1976
Schubert/Liszt: Du bist die Ruh' S558/3
Chopin/Godowsky: Etude No 18A, (Op 10 No 9 (3rd version), for left hand alone)
Gluck/Alkan: Gavotte d'Orphée
Strauss/Grainger: Ramble on Love (from Der Rosenkavalier)
Gershwin/Grainger: Love Walked In
Gershwin/Grainger: The Man I Love
Stevenson: Peter Grimes Fantasy
Stevenson: Prelude, Fugue and Fantasy on themes from Busoni's Doktor Faust
Ronald Stevenson has been a unique presence in the musical world for the last fifty years. He is both virtuoso pianist and composer and thus is that almost extinct species, once so dominant in the era of Romanticism - the pianist/composer. As a composer he has ploughed his own furrow through the post-war decades of Modernism, writing in a style which remains tonal without being reactionary. To some extent his language could be seen as taking up where Busoni left off, and indeed this composer is one of Stevenson's greatest interests, though his frequent use of folksong points also to his interest in Grainger. His most famous work is his 80' Passacaglia on DSCH, one of the greatest piano compositions of the latter half of the 20th century.
This programme, issued on disc for the first time, was originally a lecture recital given in Vancouver and recorded by CBC in 1976. The works chosen are typically wide ranging, the common theme being that they are all transcriptions. They give us ample opportunity to hear that not only has Stevenson a virtuoso technique, but that he is also one of music's great communicators; colour and the singing line being always paramount. Undoubtedly the career of Stevenson the pianist has been limited by his own desire to work as a composer, evidently the life of a travelling virtuoso was not for him, but there can be no doubt that had he so wished he could have become a major figure on the concert stage. Those who have heard him can only hope that the many recitals he recorded for the BBC in the 1960’s & 70’s, they include almost complete cycles of Busoni and Szymanowski, might one day also see the light of day.