DANIEL ASIA: Violin Sonata; Piano Trio – Curtis Macomber, violin/ Christopher Oldfather, piano/ Frantisek Soucek, violin/ Vladimir Fortin, cello/ Richard Ormrod, piano – Summit 509, 56:41 *****:
It has been a while since I have heard any of Daniel Asia’s music—perhaps 10 years or so, so this new disc of his 2001 Sonata and 1996 Trio is most welcome. Two things stand out in both of these works. Each has an exceptionally lengthy middle slow movement, and I must say that Asia is quite adept at managing the challenges that come along with sustaining the lyrical needs of such extended forms. His slow movements are beautifully constructed with a fine architectonic curve that provides much drama.
The Sonata is interwoven with Stravinsky—not the acerbic Russian, but hints of rhythmic vitality and a constant restlessness that nevertheless feels comfortable to the listener. But Stravinsky was never this romantic, or even this predictable in the good sense of the word, for Asia’s structures allow the listener to do what so little modern music seems to do—grasp the formal leanings of the composition. If I was a violinist I would take this sonata up posthaste—it’s that good.
The earlier Trio is a big-boned work, almost too big for its meager instrumentation. Both violin and cello are asked to play with a regal intensity and type-A personality that makes sure the message gets across, while the piano hovers between them like a boxing manager in the corner of a major prizefighter. The themes are wonderful, and Asia’s stated determination that music is capable of conveying life’s big meaning comes across lovingly—and rightly—here.
All of the players are first class, with a recording that surrounds each session with just the right amount of ambiance. Rarely do first hearings affect me so readily, but this one grabbed me and won’t let go. Highly recommended.
— Steven Ritter