Tuesday 1 June 2021

On DSCH: Igor Levit recording Stevenson's Passacaglia with Shostakovich's Preludes & Fugues

Ronald Stevenson & Dmitri Shostakovich at the 1962 Edinburgh Festival with the score of Stevenson's 'Passacaglia'
Ronald Stevenson & Dmitri Shostakovich at 1962 Edinburgh Festival
with the score of Stevenson's Passacaglia
We caught the thrilling pianism of Igor Levit's performance of Ronald Stevenson's Passacaglia on DSCH at Wigmore Hall in May 2019 [see my review] so it is exciting to learn that Levit will be releasing a recording of the Passacaglia on Sony Classical in September. But Levit will be pairing the Passacaglia with another stupendous 20th century work, Dmitri Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) wrote his 24 Preludes and Fugues in 1951, Levit describes it as “a kind of musical diary”, noting: “There is something utterly unique about their combination of warmth, immediacy and pure loneliness. For me, it is a ritual of self-exploration and self-discovery that deals with the most intimate questions.” The work, lasting two and a half hours, consists of preludes and fugues in all the major and minor keys. There is apparently no extra-musical narrative, but is a response to Bach's 48. 

Ronald Stevenson (1928-2015) wrote his Passacaglia in 1963, a set of variations on the motif DSCH (based on Shostakovich's initials) and at 75 minutes long (or so) it is probably the longest single movement for solo piano. The work was dedicated to Shostakovich and Stevenson presented the Russian composer with a score when the two met at the 1962 Edinburgh Festival (when Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony received its UK premiere, and Benjamin Britten and Mstislav Rostropovich performed Shostakovich's Cello Sonata).

Igor Levit's new album, On DSCH will be released by Sony Classical on 10 September 2021 in a deluxe 3-CD limited edition as well as in digital formats. The Shostakovich cycle will also appear on vinyl on 10 September, with Stevenson's Passacaglia following in February 2022. 

The first track has been released today [Link Tree] and further information from Sony's website.

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