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Colin Scott-Sutherland has engineered a book of remarkable scope, extraordinarily well organised, 507 pages (including the index) and a very generous supply of photographs and reproduced documents. His own introduction provides a biography that is as fascinating as it is informative; the daunting programme of Stevenson's first piano recital at the age of nineteen in Blackburn where he was born; his detainment as a pacifist; his journey to Italy in pursuit of his Busoni studies; a first meeting with Hugh MacDiarmid and in 1963 a two-year appointment to the University of Cape Town before a return to his 'home' in Scotland.

This superb Symposium is arranged first in a series of chapters devoted to his compositions: the piano music the most extended essay by Ates Orga in great depth and detail, coming early to the Celtic Aesthetic. It must be acknowledged that Stevenson's passion for the music and folklore of Scotland is, as Orga says, at one with that of Bartók, Falla, Grieg and Janácek among others for their own roots, and his music celebrates a constant search for an indigenous Scottishness.

Ronald Stevenson talking to Dmitri Shostakovich
Ronald Stevenson talking to Dmitri Shostakovich

There is extended analysis of the famous Passacaglia on DSCH and its performances (Stevenson photographed with Shostakovich receiving it) and the Peter Grimes Fantasy, as well as the innumerable transcriptions, paraphrases and arrangements.

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Copyright © 6 March 2008 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


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