On May 7, the Florida West Coast Symphony, in Sarasota, presented the first live U.S. performance of Paul Ramsier's Sahara Rainforest (Zoo of Dreams III) by John Miller, bass and Chistopher Pegis, cello. This is the fifth of Ramsier's compositions presented by this orchestra, including a commission and two premieres.
Sahara Rainforest was recorded in 2004 by Miller and Pegis for Albany Records, before it was publicly performed. Its actual world premiere was given on April 4 by Dan Styffe, bass, and ěstein Birkeland, cello, in Oslo. Styffe and Birkeland will make their own commercial recording of the piece for Simax Classics this winter.
Ramsier says that "my series, Zoo of Dreams, composed for different instruments and chamber combinations, is motivated by dreams that have stayed with me through the years. Some dreams are my own; some were given to me by others. These dreams reflect a connection between my two occupations, composition and psychotherapy, and find their way out of my zoo and back 'into the wild' (so to speak) through music.
"In Sahara Rainforest, bass and cello are equally prominent, and I tried out other new ways to bring them together. The piece has its challenges, but four remarkable performers in Sarasota and Norway eagerly collaborated with me in the adventure. That's been infinitely rewarding."
From the review by Richard Storm in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, May 10, 2006
The program led off with the United States premiere of a fine piece by one of Sarasota's musical treasures, Paul Ramsier. His composition, "Zoo of Dreams III: Sahara Rainforest," is a remarkable fusion of the tonal resources of the cello and double bass.
In this work, Ramsier has provided a new way to hear the rich sounds of these instruments, which are customarily consigned to underpinning ensembles and seldom enjoy the spotlight as in these three brief movements.
Leading off with a graceful and wistful statement by the cello (soon joined in canonic imitation by the bass), the piece creates a unique world, one in which typical roles are reversed, with the bass often playing higher than the cello.
This is followed by a "perpetual motion" movement almost entirely created by pizzicato (plucking of the strings) rather than using the bow.
The melodic theme of the first movement returns in the third, albeit in a more tragic mode. Pegis and John Miller, double bass, delivered a solid and moving performance. This is a composition to be heard again, and soon.