- Passacaglia on DSCH for piano
Ronald Stevenson's "Passacaglia on DSCH" is a work that descends not only from Busoni and Sorabji, but also from Buxtehude and Bach. A traditional passacaglia, a Baroque form, is built on a "ground," a theme that repeats in the bass while "variations" are played above it. In this monumental passacaglia, the theme is the four notes D, E flat, C, and B, the same motif Dmitry Shostakovich used to personalize his music. This theme is ever-present in this work, almost overpowering the interesting, complex juxtapositions of other themes and rhythms that Stevenson has built over the ground bass. It is a work that will take most listeners time to appreciate. The included notes, by Stevenson and McLachlan, help you understand what is going on in the various sections (although the track listing is incorrect). There are times when you wish McLachlan would bring out some of the other elements even more, lessening the presence of the ground bass. It isn't until the very last sections that this ground is moved into other registers or played so softly that you can concentrate on the rest of the music. McLachlan added a few effects that weren't written into the piece. He inserted items into the strings to give them more of a dulcimer sound in the Fandango section, which fits in with the glissandi played on the strings in an earlier section and the pounding of the bass strings in a later section. The electronic effects he added in the middle of the piece are more jarring. McLachlan obviously has spent time studying this piece. He plays it with sympathy and is understanding of the composites of melodies, dynamics, and rhythms. His dedication to this work is comparable to that of a pianist who studies the "Goldberg Variations" or Beethoven's late sonatas.