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<<  -- 3 --  Robert Hugill    QUALITY AND CLARITY


Wass has devoted a tremendous amount of time in recent years to chamber music and in some ways almost prefers it, welcoming the social aspect, feeling that you can learn a lot when working with other fine musicians. The necessity for compromise makes a player ask themselves why they are doing things in a particular way, an experience that can be very valuable. Wass comments that the barriers between the different types of playing (concert, chamber, solo, and accompanist) have just about disappeared and that ideally he would like a perfect balance between the thrill of concerto playing, the freedom, flexibility and spontaneity of solo work and chamber music.

He has not played a great deal of new music but recently he worked with Sally Beamish on a new piece Voices in Silence for the City of London festival. It was the first time that he had worked with a living composer; he enjoyed the collaboration and found Sally very flexible and open to ideas. He thinks this has helped shape his general approach to contemporary music. Shortly after the Beamish première he gave the first performance of a piece by Eric Tanguy at the Cheltenham festival which proved an apposite contrast; Beamish's piece was economically written for the piano whereas the Tanguy piece, Quattro Intermezzi was very lush, influenced by Brahms's late intermezzos.

David Hartigan, with whom he studied for seven years at Chethams, has been a great influence on his piano playing, as have his teachers at the Royal Academy, Hamish Milne and Christopher Elton -- two very different pianists. Interestingly, Christopher Elton was a pupil of Maria Curcio with whom Wass has also worked, and Maria Curcio was a pupil of Schabel. This family tree helps define the kind of player Wass strives to be. For him virtuosity per se is not so important as the quality and clarity of sound. Attention to the quality of sound and colouring is something common to all the players admired by Wass; people such as Radu Lupu, Mitsuko Uchida, Murray Perahia, Kristian Zimmerman and particularly Clifford Curzon, whom Wass finds notable for the honesty of his playing.

Away from classical piano music Wass relaxes with a little jazz. Like any twenty-seven-year-old he enjoys socialising and relaxing with friends. Being based in London he welcomes opportunities to get away to the countryside and has a relatively unfulfilled interest in mountaineering.

Ashley Wass. Photo © Peter Wass
Ashley Wass. Photo © Peter Wass

Regarding the future, he has a number of plans with Naxos in addition to the Bax series, notably plans for more twentieth century British piano music. But for Wass, Beethoven and Brahms remain his most adored composers, those with whom he is most comfortable and he would, one day, welcome the opportunity to do a Beethoven sonata cycle or survey of Brahms's complete piano music. We must hope that this opportunity comes his way and I look forward to the future possibility.

Copyright © 2 September 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK




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