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Ron WASSERMAN (b. 1961)
Tango Sonata for violin and piano (2004-5) [14.36]
Ghaleb and the Donkey for solo piano (2004) [4.41]
Trilaterus for violin, piano and double bass (2006) [19.09]
Sonata for double-bass and piano (2003) [28.10]
Kurt Nikkanen (violin)
Maria Asteriadou (piano)
Ron Wasserman (double-bass)
rec. 12-13 April, 12 June 2006, Westchester County, New York. DDD 

To gain a quick understanding of what the music on this disc may sound like some information from the useful but anonymous notes in the CD booklet might not be a bad idea.

Since 1988 ‘Ron’ has held the position of principal bass for the New York City ballet orchestra. But before that he played as a jazz, pop and commercial musician. He even worked with Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton. As a composer he has written for orchestra and has arranged music by Astor Piazzolla as well as various other works for differing instrumental combinations. He is also engaged in writing a song-cycle.

He has a lively and colourful website. All of his works date from this century because he has not been composing all of his life. In fact the Sonata recorded here is one of his first major compositions.

The main work is the Double-Bass Sonata. I have to say that it is a very rare bird both in content and in length. Unfortunately for me it’s the one piece on this disc that I was most unhappy about. At almost half an hour there were too many times when I felt that the pruning scissors would have been its best ally. Of the material presented the adagio and the finale outstayed their welcome. My interest was not maintained. In addition, in the first movement, I felt unsettled by a poor balance between the instruments. The bass, especially when in its slightly unflattering upper register, seeming on occasion to be swatted away by the hefty piano writing. So let’s turn to the other pieces.

The disc opens with a three movement Tango Sonata for violin and piano in which the two players are found to be ‘dramatis personae’ in a Tango demonstration: good fun and an original idea interestingly carried through. Piazzolla eat your heart out! The work receives a lovely and characteristic performance and the recorded balance offers no difficulties.

Ghaleb and the Donkey is a very brief ballet for two boys and piano. The plot falls into six sections, set out in the booklet. It was premiered by a New York ballet company. The composer simply tells us to ‘enjoy’. 

The work entitled Trilaterus, which gives the CD its name, is as it were, hot off the press. It is scored for violin, piano and double-bass. There are three fairly equal movements but here the bass is less significant. Stylistically it is rather a hybrid; the composer even allows the option for the movements to be played as three separate freestanding pieces. The first is rather romantic and the second is inspired by ‘Tin Pan Alley’ with its night-club opening atmosphere. The finale is imitative, contrapuntal and rather classical in melody and harmony. There is a curious middle section when, over a repeated piano ostinato, the violin is plunged into slides and atonal ramblings but this gradual pulls itself back into the Bachian unison opening. All rather eclectic. 

The advertising blurb that came with my copy of the disc points out that not only is it the second disc produced by Wasserman, the first which I have not heard being called “Lament and Restoration” but says that he does not enjoy widespread distribution. The disc features tow orchestral works by Wasserman: Suite of Historical Dances is based on the four Bach orchestral suites and Lament and Restoration – a single movement violin concerto for “Alison, Strings, and Harpsichord”. The Alison in question is Alison Crowther – a mother bereaved of her son by 9/11. The work is described as “starting in desolation and moving toward healing”. Half of the proceeds from the first disc have gone to help “support the non-profit classical performing arts industry”.

There is much on this Trilaterus disc which you might well find interesting especially if you a double-bassist or have a particularly strong interest in this most overlooked of instruments.

Gary Higginson

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf

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