RONALD CENTER (1913-1973): Piano Sonata, 6 Bagatelles, Op. 3, Andante, Sarabande, Air, Pantomime, Larghetto, Sonatine, Hommage, 3 Etudes, Impromptu, 3 Movements.
Catalogue Number: 02P080
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0179
Description: Center's individual movements, or whole pieces, are brief, but the concentration of ideas and expression is truly remarkable. There is a tense, driven quality, with undertones of the bleakest tragedy to many, though not quite all, of the pieces; this seems to be a response to a natural melancholy rather than a morose affectation, and there are many flashes of wry, ironic, deadpan humor along the way. Influences, more or less openly displayed, include Shostakovich, Bartók, Debussy and Ravel; a fondness for modality suggests Vaughan Williams, but Center's voice is very much his own, with an unique approach to harmony, pungent bitonality and fierce intensity. The sonata is his magnum opus for the instrument, but the darkly glittering little Sonatine, the sumptuous, sad lyricism of the central slow movements of his characteristic tripartite forms, and the brittle propulsiveness of the outer movements make all the pieces compelling listening. A valuable disc that deserves the warmest welcome. Christopher Guild (piano)