RONALD STEVENSON: Passacaglia on DSCH;
plus shorter works
Delphian Records: DCD34119
Passacaglia on DSCH Parts I, II, III
Passacaglia on DSCH Part III contd
DISC 2 contd
Fugue, Variations and Epilogue on a Theme by Arnold Bax
Variations on a Theme of Pizzetti
Piano Sonatina No. 2
|Total playing time [2:20:19]|
Willshire's new recording is a major achievement in its own right: his account of the Passacaglia has an evangelizing urgency, and his bouquet of first recordings means that this release will be a mandatory purchase even for those with all the previous Passacaglie on their shelves. Very strongly recommended.
IRR Outstanding, International Record Review
Stevenson's 86-minute Passacaglia on DSCH is one of the knottiest landmarks in the history of pianism, and to hear it played with James Willshire's brilliance - plus premiere recordings of many other works by the 85-year old composer - permits the first survey of his pianistic oeuvre. It's hard to imagine this music better played: Willshire deserves a medal.
BBC Music Magazine ****
As much a test of stamina as of technique, the Passacaglia presents any interpreter with immense challenges of virtuosity and concentration. That Willshire makes light of these challenges is a tribute to a dedicated and talented young artist. The couplings are more than just makeweights, a fascinating sequence of works including homages to Bax, Field and Pizzetti. A hugely successful and rewarding endeavour.
Classical Music Magazine *****
James Willshire's pianism often evokes Stevenson's own incisively sprung rhythms and sharp dynamic contrasts, along with the natural ebb and flow of his rubato.
How wonderful, then, to witness this refreshing version from Willshire, who finds imaginative ways of opening up colours and nuances so often trapped under the unbending formality of Stevenson's obsessive structure. He does this through the clarity and sensitivity of his touch, teasing out multi-layered hierarchies of tone with bell-like precision, and through intelligent pacing that gives natural ebb and flow to the music. Willshire does Stevenson, as well as his own emerging reputation as a solo pianist, immense credit.
The magnificently quirky ambition and scale of the work are vividly conveyed, and its formidable technical hurdles effortlessly negotiated.
The Guardian ****
In a good performance, such as this one, you get swept up in the work's own scale and sense of time; James Willshire also makes the most of the pools of aural stillness that punctuate the frenetic activity... Willshire is compelling in the mercurial Pizzetti Variations. Altogether, a notable achievement by any standards, but particularly for a pianist not yet 30.
Sinfini Music *****
Willshire rises brilliantly to the abundant technical challenges in writing of Busoni-like density and sometimes Prokofiev-like brutality.
The Sunday Times
All the works on this disc are stunningly played: the technical difficulties are overcome with boundless skill. Willshire is a tremendous advocate for Stevenson's music.
James Willshire's performance is magisterial, especially so in the severe, Baroque stylings of the third section. He is also fabulous at sustaining the tension in the long final Adagissimo barocco.
The Arts Desk