Tempo



COMPOSER IN INTERVIEW: RONALD STEVENSON – A SCOT IN ‘EMERGENT AFRICA’


Chris Walton 

The Scottish composer and pianist Ronald Stevenson, who celebrated his 75th birthday on 6 March of this year, is a man about whom it is difficult to remain objective. His Passacaglia on DSCH for piano solo, one of the longest single-movement works in the literature, has for some already gained near-legendary status. Yet Stevenson himself remains serenely, even ascetically unaware of both the adulation he induces in some and the bemusement that this in turn can cause in others – a quality that is not a little reminiscent of Busoni, the musician whom Stevenson probably admires the most, and whose music he probably knows as does no other. Stevenson himself readily acknowledges his admiration of others – it is part of his ‘human counterpoint’ of life. Percy Grainger and Hugh MacDiarmid are two further artists who act as centripetal forces in Stevenson's conversations. If there is something that was common to all three of these forbears, it was perhaps a striving to express in a single work of art a vast spectrum of human experience – one thinks of Busoni's Doktor Faust, MacDiarmid's Drunk Man or Grainger's Warriors. And yet, in his Passacaglia, Stevenson has arguably been as successful as any of them.