The Scottish composer Ronald Stevenson died in March 2015. He was one of the most important composers of our time, a composer-pianist in the grand tradition of Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninov, probably best remembered for his monumental Passcaglia on DSCH. Pianist Christopher Guild’s first volume of Stevenson’s piano music was released on the Toccata Classics label in early March 2015, though I suspect Guild did not realise at the time that his recording would become a kind of memorial for Stevenson. The CD celebrates Stevenson’s shorter works for piano with a special focus on one of his major preoccupations: his love of Scottish and Celtic culture. The album contains three suites of pieces based on Scottish folk songs or songs for children, together with the more substantial A Scottish Triptych, three pieces each written some time apart, and A Rosary of Variations on Sean O’Riada’s Irish Folk Mass (1980).

The piano is the ideal instrument for miniatures, and Christopher Guild brings warmth, intimacy and wistfulness to the pieces based on Scottish folk tunes with his assured lightness of touch, sensitive voicing, clean articulation, rhythmic vitality and a keen sense of the fleeting moods and characters of each piece, and Stevenson’s penchant for complex harmonies and unexpectedly vivid dissonances. Meanwhile, A Scottish Triptych explores more plangent piano sonorities in its opening movement, and even utilises the piano’s interior (strummed and plucked strings) to produce unexpected colours and resonances in the final movement.

Christopher Guild is an enthusiastic advocate of Stevenson’s music, and the CD provides a poignant memorial to the composer. I look forward to Volume 2 with interest.


Meet the Artist……Christopher Guild

Toccata Classics

Ronald Center: Instrumental and Chamber Music 

Volume One:

Music for Solo Piano

Catalogue Number: TOCC0179
EAN: 5060113441799
Release Date: 2 September 2013

Christopher Guild, piano

Sometimes described as “the Scottish Bartok”, composer Ronald Center (1913-73) was born in Aberdeen, the youngest member of a musical family. Despite his active working life as a soloist, accompanist, organist and teacher, his music was somewhat overlooked during his lifetime and after his death, and the centenary of his birth was rather lost amid the furore of last year’s composer anniversaries of Britten, Wagner and Verdi.

Fellow Scotsman and pianist Christopher Guild is a crusader for the neglected Center, and makes a persuasive case for Center’s piano music in his new disc on the Toccata Classics label. There are intimations of the percussive spikiness of Prokofiev, the folk idioms and harmonies of Bartok, the simplicity of Poulenc, the wit and humour of Shostakovich, and the sensuality and stately parallel harmonies of Claude Debussy (in a work entitled ‘Hommage’ which is dedicated to Debussy). Hints of Scottish airs make intriguing appearances in the music, reminding us of the composer’s heritage. There are moments of haunting beauty and wistful lyricism, such as in the ‘Larghetto’, the middle movement of the ‘Sonatine’, the ‘Impromptu’, or the first of the Six Bagatelles. Meanwhile, the Piano Sonata opens with a sprightly Bartokian Allegro molto,

Alert to the musical and emotional cross-currents in the music, Guild offers a sensitive reading of these interesting and varied works that is insightful, colourful, brimming with rhythmic vitality, and meticulously presented on this high-quality recording. An excellent introduction to Ronald Center’s oeuvre.

Toccata Classics

Meet the Artist……Christopher Guild


Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and make it your career? 

I have never thought of it as a career. It is something more than that.  As far back as I can remember music has been the thing in my life, is and will be.

Who or what were the most important influences on your composing? 

Dr. Gordon McPherson, Ravel, Morton Feldman, John Adams, Steve Reich, Sibelius, Takemitsu, Olav Anton Thommessen, Harrison Birtwistle, Bartok, Shostakovich, Talk Talk, Prefab Sprout, Bach, Admiral Fallow, A-ha, John Martyn, Ligeti, Koechlin, Satie, Nicole Lizee, Nancarrow, Mahler, Mozart, Beethoven, Webern, Yannis Kyriakides, John Cage, John Lautner, William Boyd, Steven Hall, Zoe Strachan, Primo Levi, Van Gogh, Rothko, Rembrandt, Pollock, Renee LeGrande, David Hockney, Stanley Kubrick, John Keats, Robert Burns, Norman McCaig, Wilfred Owen, Marion Colyer, Shakespeare, Star Trek, Sergei Leone, nature, travel, science and space flight.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Every piece offers its own challenges. If I were to pick one it would be the first proper piece I wrote for orchestra – Ridge A. It is all about the coldest, driest and calmest place on earth which was discovered in 2009.

I spent nine months writing it alongside the rest of my folio in the final year of my BMus  and the technical leap it required from me was significant. I studied a lot of the orchestral repertoire and sat in on orchestral rehearsals at college. I realised afterwards that Takemitsu and Sibelius were important influences on the piece.

Standing in front of eighty people and answering questions about your work is quite intimidating, but it was a great experience in the end. The orchestra played it beautifully. The conductor, Christian Kluxen, was fantastic and I hope I can work with him again.

Which compositions are you most proud of?

I was very proud to be commissioned by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on their collaboration – ‘Heart of Govan’ – with CRAN Theatre to celebrate the peoples and history of Govan and their historic Govan Parish Church.

Also my piece ‘Sober Observer Sees (HD)’ to be selected by Ensemble Modern for performance in 2012.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in? 

My favourite venue in Glasgow is The City Halls, which sound fantastic.

Favourite pieces to listen to? 

Ravel’s ‘Piano Trio in A Minor’ and ‘La Valse’, The ‘Adagietto’ from Mahler 5, Ligeti’s String Quartets, Thomessens ‘From Above’ and ‘Beyond Neon’ .

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Lots! Many for different reasons. I love Glen Gould, especially his recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Nina Simone is a very powerful performer.

I have been lucky enough to have had some incredible performances of my work and I am very grateful to the hard work and dedication shown by those musicians.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

The guitarist Pavel Steidl visited the RCS twice and each concert, all solo guitar, were amazing.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? 

Work hard, be true to yourself but admit to yourself when you know other people’s advice is valid. Always do what is best for the music, not yourself, and have fun. Only write music you love and write about what you want.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently making final edits on a 15 minute solo guitar work called ‘Treasures’. It is in three movements and is about the relationship between memory and objects, such as old photographs. It is dedicated to Anthony Winton.

I am about to start work on a new piece and there are a few projects in the pipeline.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time? 

Living on the coast of the Mediterranean and supporting myself by commissions!

Richard Greer was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland where he has recently completed a Masters in Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland studying with Dr. Gordon McPherson.  His works have been performed by various individuals and ensembles, including Guitarist Sean Shibe, Soprano Claire Thompson, Trumpeter Andrew Connell-Smith, MusicLab, the Viridian Quartet, The Expedition, Red Note Ensemble, Said Ensemble, the RCS Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on their ‘Heart of Govan’ Project, and Ensemble Modern.

Ronald Stevenson

A concert exploring a selection of piano works written by two distinctive voices of Scotland’s classical music scene in the 20th century. Ronald Stevenson, whose 85th birthday year it is, is a recognised giant of British Music and an authority on the life and work of Ferruccio Busoni. Perhaps most renowned as a composer for his gigantic Passacaglia on DSCH, the programme will feature some of Stevenson’s smaller piano works.

Ronald Center

Stevenson is honoured in conjunction with a composer rarely heard of even within Scotland during his own lifetime, Ronald Center, whose centenary passed this April. Ever a reclusive character, it is only recently that his music has begun to re-emerge with the first ever survey on record of his complete piano music, by Trinity Laban’s Richard Carne Junior Fellow in Performance, Christopher Guild. A classicist at heart, Center’s music, with its influences of Britten, Prokofiev and Hindemith, stands very much in contrast to much of Stevenson’s.

This FREE, unticketed concert will appeal anyone with an interest in British Music, and those with a passion for making musical discoveries.


Ronald Stevenson: Komm, Susser Tod
Ronald Stevenson: Sonata Senerissima
Ronald Center: Giglot and Toccata
Ronald Center: Six Bagatelles
Ronald Stevenson: Wegenlied aus Alban Bergs Oper ‘Wozzeck’
Ronald Center: Piano Sonata

Performed by:

Alex Lewis, Madelaine Jones, Sally Halsey, Clare Simmonds and Christopher Guild.


Thursday 27th June, 6.30pm, Peacock Room, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, King Charles Court, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London SE10 9JF (public transport: DLR Greenwich Cutty Sark, Riverbus Greenwich Pier)

Pianist Christopher Guild will feature in a forthcoming Meet the Artist interview.