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									         THE RONALD STEVENSON SOCIETY
                 NEWSLETTER
Volume 11 Number 1                                                                            October 2004


                                             EDITORIAL

 The next summer school will be in Cumbrae in July/August 2006. The proposed themes will
 include the music of Arnold Bax and Ronald Center in the context of Stevenson’s aesthetic. Ronald
 Center is relatively unknown, though his music has been performed and recorded by Stevenson,
 McLachlan and Long. We also hope to explore some of his outstanding choral music. Please put
 this in your diary as soon as you can.


                         The Ronald Stevenson Society Summer School
          held at The Cathedral of the Isles, Millport, Isle of Great Cumbrae, Scotland,
                        Thursday 28th July – Monday 2nd August, 2004.
   Linking Strands: The Music of Ronald Stevenson, Bernard van Dieren and Erik Chisholm
                          A report by David Hackbridge Johnson
 The setting for the 2004 summer school was the beautiful island of Great Cumbrae just off the
 Scottish mainland port of Largs. Long renowned as a religious retreat, the island provided the ideal
 setting for a cultural occasion. It was my first attendance at such an event and being interested in all
 three featured composers I travelled to Great Cumbrae with much anticipation. The beautiful
 surroundings and the wonderfully varied series of concerts and lectures exceeded my expectations.
 During registration all the visitors had a chance to get to know each other. We had our first sample
 of the excellent cooking and service that was provided for us, throughout the our stay, by the
 cathedral staff. Here is my report of four of the most musically rewarding days that I can remember.
 Friday 30th July
    The summer school began by linking the three featured composers with what might be described
 as a ‘Stevensonian superscription’. Ronald Stevenson played two of his transcriptions for solo
 piano. The first was based on Hert’s Sang, a song by Erik Chisholm. The second transcription was
 of one of Bernard van Dieren’s best-known songs, Weep You No More, Sad Fountains. The
 transcriptions shared a similar approach in that the vocal parts were often given to the sonorous
 middle register of the piano while the surrounding bass and treble created a halo of harmony. The
 subtlety of the true composer-pianist was revealed in the transcriptions and they also enshrined a
 sense of continuity with past masters. With Ronald’s inimitable piano tone resounding throughout
 the cathedral, it was a fitting start to the proceedings.
 Tim Mottershead chose for the subject of his lecture, Ronald Stevenson and the Folksong. In a
 series of searching analyses of Stevenson folksong settings, Tim revealed how the composer utilises
 many different harmonic approaches to the setting of folksong. These range from simple
 harmonies, derived from the mode of the original folksong, to a more chromatic approach in the
 manner of Percy Grainger. Tim pointed out how these different approaches are never arbitrarily
 applied but relate to the emotional trajectory of the original song. In Lord Randal the ballad’s tragic
 outcome is not apparent at the start of the piece; the increasingly more elaborate harmonies provide
 the necessary tension as the story reaches its conclusion.
 Tim’s sensitive performances of several Stevenson folksong settings showed how the composer
 creates multi-layered structures for these works. The listener is aware of the strophic nature of the
 original, yet the composer’s approach is to overlay this with an overall sense of through
composition. The composer achieves this by the type of harmonic variety described above and by
the subtle use of contrapuntal devices.
Tim also played some beautiful folksong arrangements by Erik Chisholm. As Chisholm’s music
becomes better known his individual fingerprints are beginning to emerge. His pianistic
transcriptions of pibroch and drone techniques derived from piping create a unique flavour. Both
Chisholm and Stevenson arranged folk songs and also became important song composers in their
own right. Before playing his ‘superscription transcriptions’, Ronald had quoted from Wilhelm
Furtwängler who claimed that song composers must have the ability to make their own folksong.
The link between folksong and art song is of paramount importance in both Stevenson’s and
Chisholm’s works. It is perhaps as revealing as the link between folksong and the melodic gifts of
Haydn or Bruckner.
Michael Jones gave a comprehensive overview of Erik Chisholm’s piano music. Over the last three
years the Chisholm work has emerged from the shadows, thanks to his daughter Morag, who has
made regular trips to Cape Town University where most of the manuscripts are lodged. For those
involved at the start of Chisholm’s rediscovery this has been a wonderful musical voyage. Each
new work has revealed different facets of the composer, some of which provide a links to
Stevenson. It is noticeable that both composers have written large-scale works of an ambition rarely
undertaken by other composers, as well as groups of smaller pieces of simple but often exquisite
craftsmanship. During conversation, Ronald suggested that small works can often be a greater
challenge in that the composer must aim for perfection at the scale of the miniature. He felt that
large-scale works have a higher risk of failure yet the effort required to write them can reveal
different aspects of a composer. These remarks seem pertinent to Edward Grieg whose
concentration on the smaller compositional forms is a sign of the greatness of his art, not his lack of
ambition.
Michael Jones was able the illustrate Ronald’s ideas in reference to Chisholm. Alongside the
gigantic Sonata in A ‘An Riobain Dearg’ of 1939, can be set the gem like perfection of the 22
Scottish Airs For Children taken from the Patrick McDonald collection. Both these works now
appear on a new recording by Murray McLachlan, allowing listeners to explore the relationship
between the miniature and the large scale. A veritable ‘Hammerklavier of the Scots’ if you will
forgive the pun, the Chisholm sonata is a major rediscovery. As Michael demonstrated, the work
inhabits a new pianistic sound-world that owes little to any other composer. Chisholm claims
ownership of the folk-derived material he used to construct his sonata; there is no sense of
dichotomy between folk material and classical structure. He can be compared to Vaughan Williams
whose natural assimilation of English folk music is the key to his genius.
Michael also played excerpts from the Straloch Suite from 1933. This has also been recently
recorded and ought to be taken up by pianists otherwise intimidated by the Sonata in A. As well as
rich Brahms-derived piano voicings, Chisholm’s harmony at this relatively early stage of his career
is already quite his own. Finally, Michael played a recording of his excellent performance of The
Song Of The Mavis from the cycle From The True Age Of The Great World.
After lunch Alastair Chisholm delivered an impassioned talk on the music of Bernard van Dieren
and his disciples. The musical examples were provided by Wills Morgan, tenor, and Richard Black,
piano. Here was an opportunity to explore a composer who has not only been much neglected since
his death in 1936 but, furthermore, has been maligned. The prurient delight shown by some writers
in scandalous biographical details has obscured van Dieren’s art. It has not been possible to assess
the great claims made for van Dieren by Cecil Gray in his Survey of Contemporary Music, due to
the lack of performances of the work.
Alastair charted van Dieren’s compositional career from early Wagner-influenced songs like Der
Asra through an expressionistic Schoenbergian phase to his compositional maturity that derives its
strength principally from the composer’s hypersensitive musical response to poetry. Van Dieren’s
relationships with other musicians and artists were revealed. Significantly, as well as important
musicians like Philip Heseltine and Cecil Gray, van Dieren was also friends with the sculptor Jacob

                                                  2
Epstein and the poets Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell. Such wide-ranging cultural influences
provide another linking thread to both Ronald Stevenson and Erik Chisholm.
Alastair also charted the efforts of the late Denis ApIvor to bring van Dieren’s music to a wider
public. That these efforts were frustrated, largely by indifference, does not diminish the necessity
for attempting the rehabilitation of neglected masters. The van Dieren songs, beautifully performed
during the lecture, reveal a composer of rare sensibility. Each song is a blend of voice and piano in
a veritable garden of harmonic delights; unpredictable, highly perfumed even, and always in tune
with the words of the poem. It is perhaps significant that this most searching of composers should
share with Schoenberg, in his works from the 1910s to the 1920s, a reliance on text as the principal
structural motivation for music. The Sketches for piano reveal a similarity with the Viennese master
in a more obvious sense, yet even the later songs of van Dieren show a Schoenbergian approach to
text-driven, atonal harmony. Whilst van Dieren still admits the triad, it rarely acts as it would in the
manner of a conventionally tonal piece. This awareness of consonance and dissonance stood van
Dieren in good stead for larger-scale works.
Ronald Stevenson, like Denis ApIvor, has long been fascinated by van Dieren’s work. Stevenson
transcriptions of van Dieren have provided the opportunity for musicians to get to know his work.
This is one of the vital aspects of transcription, apart from the more obvious one of a composer
paying homage to a previous master. In a similar manner, Ronald was able to provide transcriptions
of van Dieren’s works at a time when the composer was hardly known in this country. Despite such
passionate advocacy, van Dieren’s music still has only a precarious foothold in the repertoire. Many
important works remain unrecorded and in some cases unperformed, a state of affairs that also
applies to erstwhile van Dieren champion, Denis ApIvor. Nevertheless it is hoped that by the
continued devoted work of those prepared to stand up for a composer neglected in the current fickle
artistic climate, van Dieren might take his rightful place as an important composer of the early 20th
century.
After tea Wills Morgan and Richard Black continued with further captivating performances of songs
by Stevenson, Chisholm, Van Dieren and ApIvor. Hugh Shrapnel was present to hear his evocative
setting of a Robert Burns poem. Wills and Richard performed three different settings of the
Shakespeare poem, Take, O Take Those Lips Away. Beautiful settings by Edmund Rubbra and
William Busch were followed by an ethereal setting by van Dieren, where the vocal line revealed
itself as a series of related contours, each culminating on a high note, creating a sensation of being
suspended in mid air.
After dinner, piano music was very much to the fore, beginning with Joseph Long’s probing
interpretation of the Variations by Nielsen. The theme of the variations, beginning in B minor and
ending in G minor, provided ample grounds for discussions on structure in the ensuing question-
and-answer session with Joseph. In my view, by ending each variation in the ‘wrong key’ Nielsen
creates the impression of a half close, which propels the listener forward to the next variation
without the harmonic stalling which can sometimes be felt in variation works. This difficult piece
was presented in a way that allowed for clear delineation of individual expressive moments and the
overall structure.
Michael Jones continued the concert with subtle readings of two early works by Stevenson, Vox
Stellarum and Andante Sereno. The first piece, a lovely work, conveyed in its arching melodies and
flowing figurations an impression of a personal vision, whilst the placid progress of the Andante
sereno belied the subtleties of its harmonic shifts. Joseph Long continued with the Sonatina No.3
by Sibelius. This little-known and somewhat aphoristic work generated much discussion, the tenor
of which was that the work requires further listening to reveal its gnomic secrets. So ended the first
day packed with exciting musical discoveries.
Saturday 31st July
Alastair’s lecture, devoted to Ronald Stevenson’s transcriptions, focused on van Dieren’s String
Quartet No.5. Ronald transcribed each of the Quartet’s five movements over a number of years.
Since performances of the work in its original version have been rare, the piano transcription allows
                                                  3
pianists to enjoy the music. The nature of van Dieren’s complex part writing and the
unpredictability of his harmony have resulted in a virtuoso work for piano. As an added element of
theatre the transcription was performed in relay by Alastair Chisholm, Michael Jones, Eiluned
Davies (present on a CD recording), and finally, Richard Black.
Twenty years ago I remember seeing the scores of van Dieren’s String Quartets in the Royal College
of Music Library. As a string player I was struck by the bristling virtuosity required from all four
players. It may be this that has kept the van Dieren quartets from the concert hall, but in these days
of digital recording it ought to be possible, with care and attention, to produce a CD edition of all
six works. Van Dieren’s contribution to the genre could then be assessed alongside other
contemporaneous sets of quartets by Frank Bridge and Arnold Bax.
A second morning lecture was devoted to the Cathedral of the Isles and its music. With a
combination of enthusiasm and erudition Jamie Reid Baxter led us through musical and
ecclesiastical history of early Celtic religious life. He wove the lives of St Ninian, St. Columcille,
and St. Kentigern into a rich tapestry. Jamie was aided in the reciting of Gaelic poetry by Meg
Bateman. In tracing the Celtic church’s origins from monody, through organum, simple polyphony
and culminating in the 19-part motet O Bone Jesu of Robert Carver, Jamie was able to trace a sense
of continuity despite the not always easy relationship with so-called Roman orthodoxy. Most
revealing was the exploration of heterophonic choral singing in reformed churches, a practice that
continues to this day on the Isle of Lewis. The combination of Celtic music and early church history
was deeply stimulating and provided an interesting contrast to the all-music nature of the other
lectures. The lecture also brought in contemporary figures such as the poet Hugh MacDiarmid, thus
providing another Stevensonian link; the composer has set many MacDiarmid poems to music.
After lunch there was an informal concert featuring music by a wide range of composers as well as
the three featured composers of the summer school. Wills Morgan and Richard Black continued
their survey of van Dieren songs. They also included songs by William Busch. Hugh Shrapnel
played some of his short piano pieces. These presented aspects of the minimalist style but were
undogmatic in their approach to the method and humorous in effect. Tim Mottershead played one
of his own transcriptions of Iraqi folk music. The hammered dulcimer-like effects employed by
Tim were most effective. Mary McCarthy continued with a thrilling performance of a composition
entitled Oro by a Serbian composer, Statkić. It was interesting to hear the similarities and
differences to the Scottish-based folk music highlighted so far.
I was able to provide some violin pieces in which I was accompanied by Richard Black. We
performed the Recitative and Aria in Memory of Dmitri Shostakovich by Ronald Stevenson. This
short but intense work can be seen as a postscript to the composer’s mammoth Passacaglia On
DSCH. There followed a composition of my own entitled Canonic Elegy For Denis ApIvor. It
seemed fitting to remember Denis since his name and music had occurred frequently during
lectures.
Richard Black continued with the van Dieren piano work Piccolo Pralinudettino Fridato which
may be translated as ‘a little confectionary-prelude for Frida’, Frida being the composer’s wife.
Richard prepared a suitably edible performance! Perhaps the highlight of the concert was a rare
glimpse at the Piano Concerto No.2 ‘The Hindustani’ by Erik Chisholm. Michael Jones played the
solo piano part whilst Richard Black played a piano reduction of the orchestral accompaniment.
This composition, based entirely on Hindu ragas showed a different facet of Chisholm’s harmonic
vocabulary. The performance provided a foretaste of a work that should be revived in its entirety.
After dinner Malcolm MacDonald presented a wide-ranging survey of the life and work of John
Foulds. Malcolm highlighted certain connections between Foulds and Stevenson. Despite the fact
that Foulds never visited Scotland as far as is known, Malcolm conjectured that both Foulds and
Stevenson share certain Celtic characteristics. Although Foulds wrote many works with fanciful
Celtic-sounding titles for the Edwardian salon he also wrote more substantial music where a more
serious attitude towards Celtic art is taken. The concertante work for contralto and orchestra entitled
Lyra Celtica is a good example of this Malcolm emphasised the importance of Foulds’ second

                                                  4
wife, Maude McCarthy. As well as being an associate of Annie Besant and other luminaries of the
Theosophical movement, Maude was an expert in Celtic and Indian music, both of which were to
influence her husband.
In a recent interview with the composer’s son, Major Patrick Foulds, it has been revealed how the
music of Lyra Celtica was very much part of the Foulds household in the 1920s. His parents would
play the work in the family drawing room. Malcolm allowed us a preview of the forthcoming CD
featuring the two completed movements of the work. Foulds has been successful in creating a
beautiful and unusual work; the vocal part is truly soloistic, even instrumental in concept, yet a
lyrical quality is never absent. Foulds’ use of microtones and quarter tones in this work is a highly
attractive feature. His approach is different from that of Alois Haba, who also began to experiment
with microtones in the 1920s and 30s. Foulds rarely makes long-term use of such effects, rather
treating them as signposts within the overall structure. Haba’s more extensive and dissonant use of
microtones makes an interesting contrast. The coda of the slow second movement of Lyra Celtica
was remarkable. Descending lines using microtones, quarter tones, whole tones and diatonic scales
created a remarkable sense of gentle decay; a musical equivalent to the melting watches of Salvador
Dali.
Malcolm McDonald demonstrated the full gamut of Foulds’ multifarious gifts. The instrumental
technique of Foulds allowed him to excel in light music and in serious concert works. The same
musical intelligence lay behind the happy-go-lucky overture, Le Cabaret, and the seething rhythmic
melting-pot of the Three Mantras for Orchestra. Malcolm emphasised Foulds’ interest in world
music and showed how this filtered into his compositions. He played excerpts from Foulds’
Chinese Suite as well as the Chinese section from Ronald Stevenson’s Piano Concerto No.2 ‘The
Continents’. Both composers have drawn on the music of other cultures, not so much as a result of
cultural tourism but as a natural offshoot of their enquiring minds. Creating another set of linking
strands, Malcolm played a recording of Ronald playing a John Foulds ragtime-influenced piano
composition and followed this up with the blues sequence from the Stevenson 2nd Piano Concerto.
Sunday 1st August
The main concert of the summer school was open to the public and the audience was treated to a
series of fine performances. The concert opened with a selection of wind quintet pieces played by
the Flaxton Ensemble. They began with the lightweight Sonatina by Erik Chisholm, a bustling and
happy work receiving its first performance. This was followed by the multi-movement Wind
Quintet by Ronald Stevenson, a composition with an abundance of melody; each of the instruments
sang in cantabile and their interweavings were musical linking strands made manifest. This
substantial work was followed by two scintillating movements from La Chemininée du Roi René by
Darius Milhaud. I have often read critiques of Milhaud’s work by writers who imagine that creative
fecundity is synonymous with uneven quality. It is quicker for lazy critics to dismiss a prolific
composer than actually to take trouble to listen to the music. My two other favourite ‘Ms’ suffer
from this phenomenon; Martinu and Malipiero.
Tim Mottershead continued his explorations of folk-inspired piano compositions by playing
Stevenson’s Lord Randal and a syncopated setting of Michael Finnegan by the late Trevor Hold.
Mary McCarthy’s playing of movements from Stevenson’s South Uist Folksong Suite followed on
naturally from Tim’s performances. These settings of songs collected by Margaret Fay Shaw are
gems of economy. Hugh Shrapnel returned to the piano for more of his short compositions; firstly
his own original take on the first prelude from the 48 of Bach, and secondly, an amusing piece
entitled Clowns. These pieces seem to inhabit a similar world to the paintings of Paul Klee.
Wills Morgan and Richard Black performed a Robert Burns setting by Hugh Shrapnel called The
Fall Of Fyers. Here the vocal line assumed something of a character of Strathspey whilst the piano
part consisted entirely of ominous trills in extreme registers. It is a chilling and excellent song.
Bernard van Dieren’s exquisite setting of the Thomas Lovell Beddoes poem, Dream Pedlary,
brought us back into a harmonic knot garden of delights. Ronald Stevenson’s song Fighting Spirit
is a superb rhythmically-charged setting that inspired fantastic characterisation from Wills and

                                                 5
Richard. They ended their set with Hert’s Sang by Erik Chisholm. In its original form Chisholm
evokes the mood of Richard Strauss’ Ständchen. The first half of the concert ended with a Percy
Grainger composition for two pianos entitled Spoon River; a piece similar in concept to his
Shepherd’s Hey, achieved its effect through Grainger’s skill at perpetual variation. It was
enthusiastically played by Richard Black and Alastair Chisholm.
The second half of the concert began with Ronald Stevenson’s transcription of the little known
Edward Grieg composition, Den Bergtekne. Grieg considered this his finest work but it is rarely
performed, even though the original forces are quite modest; baritone soloist, two horns and strings.
Ronald’s playing and his transcription of this neglected work made this one of the highlights of the
entire weekend. Grieg’s noble melodies were carved out of the piano by a master sculptor, the
rolling chords and deep basses conjured up the bleakest forests.
The Sine Nomine String Quartet played the next sequence of compositions. Ronald Stevenson’s
Quartettino, being a transcription of Busoni’s Sonatina [No. 3] ad usum infantis Madeline M.
Americanae, was a delight. The subtle use of harmonics achieved colours implied in Busoni’s
original. Two Peter Warlock songs followed with Wills Morgan joining the quartet. Sleep is one of
Warlock’s masterpieces and Chopcherry is one of his happiest creations.
Jamie Reid Baxter joined the quartet as reciter for Bernard van Dieren’s composition, Ballad of
Villon. The quartet begins with chorale like material and shifting chromatic harmonies. Villon’s
poem is then recited, the quartet entering sotto voce towards the end of the poem. The work
concludes with a wordless setting of the Ave Maria. On the paper this music looks somewhat static
and its unusual concept and form might seem to militate against it’s success. However, the work
was very moving and shows how performances of challenging works are essential to assessing their
quality. The Sine Nomine Quartet completed their set with a short Meditation (Homage to van
Dieren) by Ronald Stevenson and Three Scottish Lullabies by Erik Chisholm.
In conjunction with Michael Jones I was pleased to offer two further Chisholm compositions, this
time for violin and piano. A Scotch Tit-bit and Morris Dance are both short and inventive character
pieces. Morris Dance was written when Chisholm was only 16, yet he shows an awareness of
chromatic harmony akin to Peter Warlock.
The concert ended with Joseph Long playing Fugue On A Fragment Of Chopin by Stevenson. This
extraordinary composition was also a product of relative youth, having been written when Ronald
was only 21. The style is mature and grasp of the material masterly. In the contrapuntal virtuosity
of the work it is not too fanciful to suggest that it presages the Passacaglia on DSCH. The piece
also creates a tremendous sense of momentum and this was captured in a performance of
Ogdonesque energy by Joseph.
All the performances revealed skill and enthusiasm for little known music. It was thrilling to be
involved in such a wonderful concert.
The final concert of the summer school featured the Soprano Catherine Lawrie Jones with Alastair
Chisholm at the piano. They presented a fascinating survey of Scottish song composers. This was
my first opportunity to hear a substantial number of songs by F. G. Scott. He is a major figure based
on this evidence. Milkwort and Bog-Cotton, his setting of a Hugh MacDiarmid poem, must rank
very highly in 20th century song.
Ian Whyte’s music is not familiar today, yet the two songs performed show him to be in possession
of a natural lyrical gift. Stevenson was represented by his settings of the poems of William Soutar.
The Lea presented a rich evocation; in its lyrical but never predictable course it put me in mind of
the atmosphere created by George Butterworth’s Housman settings. Catherine and Alastair
presented a selection of songs from Erik Chisholm’s Celtic songbook. These deceptively simple
settings were performed with great character and affection.
It was fitting that the summer school should end with the intimate medium of songs with piano.
The peaceful surroundings of the cathedral provided the perfect setting for this gentle yet passionate
music by Scottish masters.

                                                  6
So concludes my survey of the official events during the summer school. However it would be a
mistake to assume that minds were idle at any time between the scheduled events. The Ronald
Stevenson Society is a veritable magnet for brilliant musicians and enquiring minds. In promoting
Ronald’s work the society is also preserving a lineage of other composers and performers of which
he is a part. In conversations during the weekend the names of Busoni, Nielsen, Medtner, Curzon,
Tauber, Miaskovsky, Stenhammer, Grieg, Art Tatum, Fats Waller, Marek, Havergal Brian and many
others could be heard. It was most gratifying to find that one is not alone in admiring these artists.
In an age when even many musicians don’t know their Busoni from their elbows it was an amazing
boost to see how passionately he, and other artists, were embraced. Also history, literature,
painting, architecture and politics were vigorously debated. The organisation of the event was
exemplary due to the enthusiasm and hard work of Alastair Chisholm, Marjorie Stevenson and all
the staff at the Cathedral College. The four days I spent on Great Cumbrae have created enough
enthusiasm in me to last until the next summer school brings all the linking strands together once
more.

David Hackbridge Johnson
5.viii.2004




    Ronald Stevenson World Premiere: Jeremy Limb, Conway Hall, London, 4 May 2004
                      Graham Parlett, BMS News 103, September 2004

Jeremy Limb, a great-grandson of Sir Arnold Bax, was born in 1971 and began learning the piano at
the age of four; he later studied music at Oxford and the RCM. Limb’s grandmother was Bax’s
daughter, Maeve, and viewed in profile, he bears a slight resemblance to the composer as a young
man. He performed Bax’s Second Violin Sonata last year at the Frome Festival (of which the
director, Marin Bax, is a cousin), and it was appropriate that Limb should begin his Conway Hall
recital with three short pieces by his distinguished forebear. The miniature tone poem Winter
Waters, one of Bax’s darkest and stormiest piano works, came first, in a performance that brought
out its brooding atmosphere to the full, and then we heard A Hill-Tune, whose delightful melody
was originally written for the String Quintet in G, which Divertimenti recently recorded for Dutton;
this was sensitively and expressively played. Finally, in complete contrast, came Whirligig, one of
Bax’s most light-hearted piano pieces, dedicated to Irene Scharrer, which ends with what I believe
is the only occurrence in his entire output of an upward glissando in thirds for the right hand (which
can be quite painful to execute on an inferior keyboard). Limb entered fully into the spirit of the
piece, producing a sparkling account of it and emerging at the end with all his fingers intact.

Next came Ronald Stevenson’s short but action-packed Peter Grimes Fantasy (1971), based on the
opera which greatly impressed Bax when he first heard it and caused him to declare Britten ‘the
only English compser ever to have shown a brilliant theatrical flair’. As Colin Scott-Sutherland
points out in his note for the piece, Stevenson’s fantasy is no mere ‘pot-pourri of tunes from the
opera’ but ‘a closely knit formal structure which metamorphoses, in virtuosic pianistic terms, the
characters of the protagonists’. Britten, in his maturity at least, wrote few works for the piano, and
it was fascinating to hear some of the themes from his opera in this medium, divested of their
familiar orchestral dress; I was reminded of that famous piece of film shot in 1945 showing Britten
himself playing part of the score on the piano. Stevenson’s metamorphoses display a wide variety
of moods within a fairly short time-span, and the range of pianistic textures is also varied, including,
near the end, a few notes played by the pianist inside the lid of the instrument. The work made a
deep impression and was warmly applauded.
                                                                                (Continued on page 8)
                                                   7
                                                                                               Society Members
                                                                                             Honorary Members
(continued from page 7)                                                             Albert Wullschleger Prof Fred Edwards
Jeremy Limb then gave the world pemière of Stevenson’s Fugue,                                  Helmut Petzsch
Variations and Epilogue on a Theme by Arnold Bax. This was                      Australia                  Netherlands
completed towards the end of the year 2003, but there are sketches for             Felix Meagher             Ronald Brautigam
the work going back two decades, to Bax’s centenary year. The theme             Canada                     Portugal
is the principal melody from the slow movement of the Second                       Robert Chesterman         Dr Nancy Lee Harper
                                                                                   Michael Doleschell      Scotland
Symphony (1924-5), and the score, which lasts about eighteen minutes               Dr Keith Davies Jones    Gertrude Barton
in performance, is dedicated to Colin Scott-Sutherland and Malcolm                 Harry Newstone           Margaret Baxter
Porteous (conductor of the Peebles Orchestra). The work begins with a              Dr Paul Rapoport         Bryan Beattie
fugue marked ‘without protocol’, a term originally used (as Stevenson              Gordon Rumson            David Betteridge
                                                                                   Prof Joel Wapnick        Helen Bewes
points out) by Koechlin in his first Album de Lilian, op. 139, and              England                     Alastair Chisholm
indicating that it eschews the textbook rules of fugal form. The first             Martin Anderson          Dr Iain Colquhoun
phrase of Bax’s theme appears at the outset deep in the bass, poco                 Richard Black            Lawson Cook
misterioso, and transcribed into the rarely-used Locrian mode (B to B              Michael Binks            Nicholas Davis
                                                                                   Dr Morag Chisholm        James Eaton
on the white notes of the piano). The music gradually becomes more
                                                                                   Tim Clark                Edward Ferguson
animated, discordant and disjointed, the effect of the mellifluous                 Henry C Day              Liz Gibson
melody buffeted and mutilated in this way bringing to mind Ives’s                  Geoffrey Elborn          Phamie Gow
wayward distortion of well-known tunes. The theme appears not only in              Dr Alan Espie            Susan Hamilton
its original guise but also in inverted, retrograde and canonic versions,          Mark Gasser              Dr Tom Hubbard
                                                                                   Barrie Gavin             Shand C Hutchison
and the fugue’s climax has the melody in both augmentation and                     Blanche Gordon           Philip Hutton
diminution, ending with four bars marked ‘quasi fanfara’.                          Carola Grindea           Betty Kidd
                                                                                   David Hackbridge-        Jack Keaney
The Variations begin bitonally, the upper two staves with a key                      Johnson                Leila Morley Jones
signature of five sharps, the lower two staves, which represent a                  Kenneth Hamilton         Joseph Long
‘shadowy reflection’ of the upper, having five flats. Then comes a                 Dr Peter Hick            Michael Lister
delicate Intermezzo-Notturna: omaggio a John Field, and this is                    Jeremy Hooker            Mary McCarthy
                                                                                   Joan Humphreys           Eddie McGuire
succeeded by a short variation labelled Alla giga, which brought to                Nigel Hutchison          Archie McLellan
mind the scherzo from the finale of Bax’s Sixth Symphony in the way it             Michael Jones            Maureen McLeod
metamorphoses the original slow melody into an Irish-sounding dance.               Morris Kahn              Catherine Miller
The Marcia funebre that follows presents the theme in the most Baxian              Jeremy Limb              Sheena Nicoll
                                                                                   Dr Edward Lowbury        Juliet Norris
version heard so far in the work. A capricious variation, marked                   William Lynch            Susan Oakes
Allegro (quasi feroce!), is followed by an Andante cantabile                       Malcolm McDonald         Malcolm Porteous
presentation of the theme in its inverted form. Then comes what Colin              Murray McLachlan         Dr Alan Riach
Scott-Sutherland calls a ‘romantic ruminative arpeggio’ version of the             Tim Mottershead          James Robertson
                                                                                   Beryl Penny              Gillian Sams
theme (he aptly likens it to Chopin’s ‘Aeolian Harp’ Étude), with Bax’s            Victor Perry             Will Scott
original harmonies being clearly heard for the first time. Finally the             Jonathan Scott           Colin Scott-Sutherland
melody is given out more or less as it appears towards the end of Bax’s            Hugh Shrapnel            Scottish Poetry Library
original movement. For anyone who knows the symphony, this richly                  Eileen M Skinner         Judy Steel
                                                                                   Harold Taylor            Marjorie Stevenson
inventive homage from one composer to another was a moving
                                                                                   S. C. Trowell            Martyn Strachan
experience, enhanced by Jeremy Limb’s superb playing. I look forward               Irving Wardle            Stephen Ward
to further performances and hope that a recording will be forthcoming.             Charles Wiffen           Derek Watson
                                                                                   Kenneth Worrall          Ruzena Wood
                                                                                Finland                    South Africa
                                                                                   Matti Raekallio          Dr Chris Walton
                                                                                Germany                    Switzerland
     The Society acknowledges financial assistance from                            Arnold Schalker          Ursula Codoni
                                                                                Italy                       André Guex-Joris
                                                                                   Centro Studi Musicali    Kurt Hediger
                                                                                   Ferruccio Busoni         H & V Lüscher Hofmann
                                                                                   Empoli                   Ivan Neumann
   Ronald Stevenson Society Patrons                                             Japan                       Annabel Seidler
 Joseph Banowetz, Lord Patrick Douglas Hamilton, Graham Johnson OBE                T. J. G. Harris          E Wullschleger
                                                                                   Maya Masumoto           USA
                             Committee                                          Luxembourg                  Teresa Balough (CT)
 Chair: Philip Hutton; Vice Chair: Nick Davis; Secretary: Iain Colquhoun;          Maurice Barnich          Alfred R. Bredenberg (CT)
   Treasurer: Colin Scott-Sutherland; Editor, Newsletter: Will Scott;              Dr J R Baxter            Shou-ping Chiu (NY)
                   Archivist: Marjorie Stevenson                                   Chris Birch              Prof W S. Hartley (NY)
                                                                                   Dafydd Bullock           Malcolm Hawkins (MA)
                             Affiliations                                          Alan Carlisle            Thomas Hulse (CA)
 Scottish Music Information Centre (SMIC), 1 Bowmont Gardens, Glasgow G12 9LR      Jacqueline Fleming       Christian Jensen (MN)
                                                  Email: info@smic.org.uk          Barbara Hall             Terry McNeill (CA)
 Scottish Poetry Library, Crighton’s Close, High Street, Edinburgh                 Gordon Jenkins           Prof Neil McKelvie
                                                  Email: inquiries@spl.org.uk      Geoff Piper             Sweden
 Music Enterprise, rue de Cerisiers 24, L-1322 Luxembourg                          Mick Swithinbank         John Fritzell
                                                  Email: pipergeo@pt.lu            Hubert Wellenstein      Wales
 Centro Studi Musicali Ferruccio Busoni, Empoli, Italy                                                      Caroline Davies

      The Ronald Stevenson Society, 3 Chamberlain Road, Edinburgh EH10 4DL, Scotland. Fax No. 0131-229 9298
                             Website: www.rssoc.org E-mail: wsscott@willscot.demon.co.uk


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