In so many ways, Ronald Stevenson, both as a composer and pianist, has been a throwback to an earlier era in music, the era of the composer as performer, the era of pianistic virtuosity and transcription as propounded by Liszt and carried on by Godowsky, Busoni, and Grainger. Yet Stevenson's controversial far-left politics would seem at odds with his conservative musical sympathies. Indeed, and some of his music was sourced in the vexinglyRead more controversial: the inspiration of Lenin infuses parts of the 1960-1962 Passacaglia on DSCH, and Cuban Communist revolutionary Che Guervara is paid homage in the 1970-1972 Piano Concerto No. 2. Stevenson incorporated folk music into his compositions, divulging many ethnic styles, including African, Indian, Chinese, various European, and, of course, Scottish, Welsh, and English. His music, dominated by the piano, but with much in the vocal realm, is accessible and imaginative. As a pianist Stevenson often introduced and concertized his own works, but also championed those of Paderewski, Busoni, and Grainger, as well as a broad range of other repertory. Stevenson's works are available on many labels, including Altarus, Regis Records, Koch-Schwann, and Appian, and, as a pianist he has recorded for Altarus and several other labels.
Ronald Stevenson was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, England, on March 6, 1928. His father was a good amateur singer. Stevenson studied music at the Royal Manchester College of Music (piano with Iso Elinson and composition with Richard Hall). His earliest surviving works (Fantasia for piano and strings, three sonatinas for piano, and some songs) date to the immediate postwar era. Following his 1948 graduation Stevenson spent a year in jail for conscientious objection to military service.
Save for a brief period of study at the famed Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome in 1955, Stevenson spent the 1950s teaching at schools in Durham and Edinburgh and often appeared in concert. While he continued teaching in the 1960s -- at Capetown University (South Africa) from 1962-1965 -- he was active in the concert hall, programming mixed fare, often the aforementioned Passacaglia on DSCH, which garnered much attention then.
Stevenson appeared on numerous BBC radio broadcasts in the 1970s, among them his acclaimed 1972 premiere performance of the Second Piano Concerto. Stevenson remained active in the closing decades of the twentieth century, as both a performer and composer. His most recent works include the derivative Romance from Mozart's Concerto in D minor (2002). Read less
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