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Divine Art dda21372 [3 CDs]

Disc 1: Komm, susser Tod (after Bach) Prelude and Chorale (An Easter Offering) L'Art nouveau du chant appliqué au piano (volumes 1 and 2) Six Pensées sur des Préludes de Chopin Variations-Study on a Chopin Waltz Etudette d'après Korsakov et Chopin Three Contrapuntal Studies on Chopin Waltzes Disc 2: Le Festin d'Alkan Sonatas nos. 1 & 2 (after Ysaÿe) Norse Elegy Canonic Caprice on 'The Bat' Disc 3: Fantasy for mechanical organ (on Mozart's K. 608) Romanze from Piano Concerto in D minor, K.466 (after Mozart) Melody on a Ground of Glazunov Ricordanza di San Romerio Three Grounds (after Purcell) Toccata (after Purcell) Little Jazz Variations on Purcell's 'New Scotch Tune' Hornpipe (after Purcell) The Queen's Dolour (after Purcell) Two Music Portraits Three Elizabethan Pieces after John Bull

Just in time for Christmas comes this, one of the very most important and entertaining piano recordings of the year.

The prolific composer/pianist Ronald Stevenson (b. 1928) is a larger than life figure, redolent of bygone ages, "one of the most original minds in the world of the composition of music": Yehudi Menuhin.

An admirer of Golden Age pianism (I guess he has had little time for late 20 C "modernism") he indulges in over-the-top elaborations, arrangements and transcriptions of famous music by his favourite composers, who extend to Alkan & Britten alongside Bach and Chopin. He does not distinguish amongst those activities and pushes their virtuoso masterworks to new complexities of counterpoint and pianistic demands, with mind-boggling originality and daring.

His friend and, I guess, equal as a piano wizard Murray McLachlan has added this triple-CDs set to his earlier account of the 80-mins magnum opus Passacaglia on DSCH, with which I became acquainted via John Ogdon in the '60s [McLachlan's version is on Divine Art dda 25013].

I guarantee that many of the multitude of tracks (e.g. Rimsky's bumblebee and Chopin's Study Op 10/2 played simultaneously !) will tickle the fancies of your holiday guests, and the collection as a whole will give lasting satisfaction.

What we need next, Stevenson's music being so very visual, is a joint DVD from the composer and this interpreter.

Peter Grahame Woolf

P.S. These CDs should be enjoyed in conjunction with Murray McLachlan's magnificent and sonically superb account of Stevenson's ground breaking Passacaglia, a 75 mins tour de force:

Pars Prima: Sonata Allegro 0:05 Waltz In Rondo-Form 6:24 Episode 1. Presto 9:03 Suite: Prelude 11:10 Sarabande 12:20 Gigue 13:28 Sarabande 13:42 Minuet 13:57 Gigue 16:13 Gavotte 16:27 Polonaise 17:52 Pibroch (Lament For Children) 19:27 Episode 2. Abaresque Variations 21:41 Nocturne 22:19 Pars Altera: Reverie-Fantasy 23:52 Fanfare 27:07 Forebodings. Alarum 27:25 Glimpse Of A War Vision 27:39 Variations On 'Peace, Bread And The Land' (1917) 28:51 Symphonic March 30:45 Episode 3. Volante Scherzoso 32:49 Fandango 33:38 Pedal Point. 'To Emergent Africa' 35:34 Central Episode. Etudes 37:07 Variations In C Minor 40:41 Pars Tertia: Adagio. Tribute To Bach 44:04 Triple Fugue Over Ground Bass: Subject 1. Andamento 45:31 Triple Fugue Over Ground Bass. Subject 2. BACH 50:27 Triple Fugue Over Ground Bass. Subject 3. Dies Irae ("In memoriam the six million") 56:45 Final Variations On A Theme Derived From Ground (Adagissimo Barocco) 01:02:32 ("poco a poco giantesco" 01:08:26) (Tempo Primo 01:09:38) (Largo 01:10:14) .

McLachlan's is probably the best of several recordings including the great John Ogdon's in the '60s and one of which (Mark Gasser live at Carnegie Hall) can be heard whilst following the complete score on youtubeH0qZRRj3vnQ - a technological miracle !

See also: musicwebMar04/stevenson_DSCH ; pianoworld.com/Passaca.html and divineartrecords.com/CD/25013