Tango Sonata (2004-5): Imagine, if you will, a violin and piano duo in the smoke filled lounge of a luxury hotel in Buenos Aires. They start off their evening playing a romantic tango for the lovers dancing in the room. Then, surprisingly, the violinist and pianist take a break from their jobs and, dance a sexy tango with each other. Finally, to show everyone how it is really done, the violin and piano dance with violinist and pianist, or vice versa. In any case, they all dance a tour-de-force before collapsing with exhaustion at the end.
Ghaleb and the Donkey (2004): is a short, sprightly, and enjoyable piece radiates nothing but happiness from beginning to end. It was commissioned by the Kayali Family, and tells the true story of Ghaleb, who, as a child dancer on stage in the Ballet, “Union Jack,” at the New York City Ballet, had his foot stepped on by a live donkey. Ron witnessed this event from his seat in the orchestra pit and immediately got the idea to set it to music. The piece was choreographed for two boys by Michelle Mola. Ghaleb premiered the role of himself, and Craig Wasserman played the Donkey. It was performed at a New York City Ballet company party. The names of the very short movements are as follows:
1. Ghaleb Dances Happily.
2. The Donkey Enters.
3. The Donkey Gets Excited.
4. In His Excitement the Donkey Steps On Ghaleb’s Foot.
5. Ghaleb Nurses His Wounds But Recovers Quickly.
6. Ghaleb Tames The Donkey And They Happily Dance Together.
Sonata for Double Bass and Piano (2003): is dedicated to Frank Proto, one of the deans of bass playing composers. Several years ago, Frank asked Ron to write a short piece for an album of music to be presented to their teacher, the eminent David Walter, on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Ron obediently fashioned a short work for solo double bass, and hasn’t stopped writing since, hence the dedication, in deep gratitude for that small act of motivation which proved to be a life-changing event. The Sonata, probably the only work on this recording that can not readily be danced to, (and only because of its unusual instrumentation) is one of the most ambitious solo works ever written for the bass, and borrows much from its multi-functions as a jazz, pop, and classical instrument. There is no instrument with greater versatility. The piece makes use of a wide array of styles ranging from the classical Sonata-Allegro form, to impressionism, to more modern styles such as minimalism and those of the postmodern populists and crossover artists who utilize rock, and even bluegrass influences. Using various out of the ordinary techniques such as 5/4 time, double stops, portamenti, melodies in the extreme high tessitura, and an overall feeling of improvisation, it should prove to be an enduring work for the advanced soloist at the college to professional level.
Trilaterus (2006): refers to three movements by three players, and has, as its raison d''être, the bringing together of the three solo instruments on this recording. Its three movements are of such vastly different characters they could almost be considered different pieces. The first movement’s title is a very simple numerical puzzle relating to the numbers of beats and measures in the piece, multiplied by the number of eighth notes in a beat. The second movement shows reverence to the old torch songs of Tin Pan Alley, and how they have been interpreted by jazz musicians over the years. The third movement is somewhat schizophrenic, successfully switching back and forth between a neo-baroque dance, and a postmodern, downtown, improvised, art-music mood. But once again, most of these pieces are eminently danceable, or at least subconsciously emulate dance music, which is something that Ron Wasserman, try as he might, simply can’t escape from. His many years in the ballet orchestra pit seem to have permanently tattooed his musical sensibilities. Trilaterus is warmly and affectionately dedicated to Maria Asteriadou and Kurt Nikkanen in gratitude to the wonderful artistry they contributed to this recording and the creation of the piece.
Ron Wasserman, Composer
Since his first recording was produced in 2004, Ron has had several interesting opportunities come his way. In July 2005, he received his first orchestral commission from the New York City Ballet to compose a short introductory fanfare celebrating the 40 year residency of the Ballet at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center that summer. In January 2005, Ron arranged several Astor Piazzolla Tangos to accompany the new production of Peter Martins’ reworked ballet, “Todo Buenos Aires.” He also wrote pieces for violin and piano to accompany various New York City Ballet educational programs, one of which involved Christopher Wheeldon extemporaneously choreographing short dances for children called onstage from the audience.
His orchestral work, “Lament and Restoration,” a 9/11 memorial concerto for violinist, strings, and harpsichord was recorded in 2004 by the micro-label Red Bandanna Records, along with his “Suite of Historical Dances.” “Lament and Restoration” was previously performed in Sant’ Oreste, Italy, and Nyack, New York. In May of 2005, “Lament and Restoration” was made into a ballet entitled, “Red Bandanna,” choreographed by Margo Sappington for a performance by Valentina Kozlova and her Dance Conservatory Performance Project at Symphony Space in New York City. He has also composed several highly regarded arrangements of traditional spirituals, jazz numbers and rags for the Westchester Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet Orchestra.
As a veteran of the classical music business, Ron has long been concerned with the financial health of the American symphony orchestra, and has dedicated himself to several imaginative fundraising efforts. He is extremely happy that at almost half of the proceeds from his first recording have gone to support the non-profit classical performing arts industry.
In recent months of this writing he has finished part one of “Unrealized Dreams?” a song cycle for baritone and piano, with excerpts from recent presidential inaugural addresses as its text, and several of what will ultimately be twenty-four preludes and fugues for piano in all keys somewhat in the style of Bach. Most ambitiously, he is working on a full-length children’s ballet for orchestra to his own libretto. Ron always welcomes comments on his music and he can be contacted at [email protected]://www.tradebit.com.
Ron Wasserman, Bassist
Since 1988 Ron has held the position of principal bass for the New York City Ballet Orchestra. He has also served or substituted as principal bass of many other orchestras including the Long Island Philharmonic, The Brooklyn Philharmonic, The American Composer’s Orchestra, The Westchester Philharmonic, and the Bard Festival Orchestra. For the past several years he has substituted from time to time with the New York Philharmonic. In 2000 he appeared onstage at the New York City Ballet as a soloist in the Diamond Project ballet, “Appalachia Waltz,” becoming one of the very few bassists to recreate the music of Edgar Meyer. He has also performed onstage in the above mentioned “Todo Buenos Aires.”
Before his orchestra career became full time, Ron played for many years as a jazz, pop, and commercial musician in countless of New York’s sundry recording studios, Broadway theaters, concert halls, and clubs. In his earlier, more jazz oriented days he had the great pleasure of appearing with Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Don Elliott and others. Ron attended Indiana University, studying bass with Stuart Sankey, and jazz performance with David Baker. He studied with the late, great David Walter at both the Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard School, where he received the Master of Music degree in 1985.
Maria Asteriadou, Pianist
Maria Asteriadou, a native of Greece, has established herself as a well known piano soloist and chamber musician in the United States, Canada, and Europe. She has given premiere performances of works by numerous Greek composers and has performed with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, the Isai Philharmonic Orchestra and all the major Greek orchestras as well as orchestras in the United States and Canada. Asteriadou won first prize in performance from the State Conservatory in Thessaloniki, Greece. She was also a prizewinner at the Maria Callas International Piano Competition, Concerts Atlantiques, Artists International and the Dora Zaslovksy Competition.
Asteriadou holds degrees from the Conservatory in Thessaloniki and from the Musikhochschule in Freiburg. She received her Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School and her Doctorate from Manhattan School of Music, where she serves as a member of the faculty.
Kurt Nikkanen, Violinist
An internationally recognized violin soloist and concertmaster of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, Kurt Nikkanen is one of the finest American violinists of his generation. Born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, Kurt began his violin studies at the age of three. At twelve, Kurt gave his Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Symphony. Continuing his formal studies as a young adult, Kurt earned his Bachelor''s Degree, studying with Dorothy DeLay, at the Julliard School in 1986.
Kurt has appeared with orchestras such as the Detroit and St. Louis symphonies, and in Europe with the BBC Symphony and Dresden Staatskapelle. He has worked with many leading conductors including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andrew Davis, Jeffrey Tate, Hans Vonk, Hugh Wolff, Neeme Jarvi, and Andrew Litton. An enthusiastic advocate of contemporary music, Kurt Nikkanen has given numerous performances of John Adams'' “Violin Concerto” among many other works.
Other contemporary projects include Aaron Jay Kernis'' “Concerto for Violin & Guitar,” performed at the 1998 Aspen Festival with conductor Hugh Wolff, and HK Gruber''s violin concerto, “Nebelsteinmusik,” performed with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra under the composer''s direction in 1999. In the year 2000, he recorded Steven R. Gerber''s violin concerto, which was written for Kurt and continues to receive performances.
Since becoming concertmaster of the New York City Ballet Orchestra in 2003, Kurt has performed several concertos with the orchestra, including those by Stravinsky, Berg, Bach, and Vivaldi. In 2006 he premiered a new Peter Martins ballet set to Corigliano’s “Red Violin” Concerto.
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