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David Dalle
Thursday March 9th, 2017 with David Dalle
"It's my birthday and I will play what I want to" and I will self-indulge with a gigantic and rare piano piece, Ronald Stevenson's homage to Shostakovich, "Passacaglia on DSCH"

Today I will self-indulge (more than usual!) with an extraordinary, rare, and massive piano piece which also ties in with my focus on Shostakovich this year. Ronald Stevenson's "Passacaglia on DSCH" is a work from 1962 composed as a homage to Dmitri Shostakovich and also, by extension, Bach. A passacaglia is a Baroque musical form with a set of variations on top of a repeating bass line. The most famous Passacaglia is Bach's in c minor for Organ, one of his largest and most virtuosic organ works. DSCH refers to the German name for the notes D, E-flat, C, B, and this twisty chromatic motif is the bass ostinato which runs through the entire 80 minute work. The DSCH motif was used by Shostakovich in a number of his post-WW2 works, and it was based on the German spelling of his name Dmitri SCHostakowitch, it was a personal touch, often encrypting his music with mysterious hidden meaning. It was also a reference to Bach who used the BACH (B-flat, A, C, B) motif in several works, and is similar in being a twisty chromatic theme: DSCH is up a semitone, down a minor-third, down a semitone, BACH is down a semitone, up a minor third, down a semitone (which is extremely rich in musical potential, unlikely Bach would have used a theme based on his name if it resulted in the notes C-D-E-F for example!) Stevenson suggests a performance of the "Passacaglia on DSCH" should take around 80 minutes, and the few recordings of it range from 75 to 88 minutes. It features hundreds of variations on top of the obsessive DSCH ostinato which range widely from in different sections from sonata form, suites of Baroque dances, allusions to revolutionary tunes from 1917, allusions to African music, a massive triple fugue on the DSCH theme, a theme combining DSCSH with the BACH theme, and the Dies Irae. All of it in one continuous, unbroken torrential deluge of notes. Magnificent! Titanic! Legendary! The recording we will hear today is the first recording from 1964 with the composer, also a gifted pianist, playing. The photo above was taken when Stevenson met and presented Shostakovich with a copy of the score (look how thick it is!) at the Edinburgh Festival in 1962. The 21 sections in this continuous piece are listed below.
Passacaglia on DSCH i) Sonata allegro
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH ii) Waltz in rondo-form
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH iii) Episode
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH iv) Suite (Prelude, Sarabande, Jig, Sarabande, Minuet, Jig, Gavotte, Polonaise)
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH v) Pibroch (Lament for the Children)
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH vi) Episode: arabesque variations
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH vii) Nocturne
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH viii) Reverie-Fantasy
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH ix) Fanfare--Forebodings: Alarm--Glimpse of a War-Vision
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH x) Variations on "Peace, Bread & the Land (1917)"
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xi) Symphonic March
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xii) Episode
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xiii) Fandango
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xiv) Pedal-point: "To emergent Africa"
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xv) Central Episode: etudes
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xvi) Variations in c minor
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xvii) Adagio: tribute to Bach
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xviii) Triple Fugue subject I andamento
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xix) Triple Fugue subject II BACH
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xx) Triple Fugue subject III Dies Irae
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Passacaglia on DSCH xxi) Final variations on theme derived from ground (adagissimo barocco)
Ronald Stevenson/Ronald Stevenson - Passacaglia on DSCH - Appian Recordings
Haidara
Jali Musa Jawara - Yasimika - Ryko
Csi Lav Tu
Ando Drom - Phari Mamo - Network
Cucuritza
Fanfare Ciocarlia - Onwards to Mars! - Asphalt Tango
Set Me Free
The Kamkars - Kani Sepi - Kereshmeh
Interactive CKCU
André
The implication is that you sometimes self-indulge less, which seems unproven.

3:02 PM, March 9th, 2017
André
This is fantastic.

3:48 PM, March 9th, 2017