Donald Ashwander: Sunshine and Shadow
Donald Ashwander, piano
Sharon Moore, vocals


Donald Ashwander, as I have observed him, is an intuitive composer who draws on memory and the unconscious. The memory may be childhood; or it may be today, remembered while composing at night. But it is always memory, a Remembrance of Things Past. So that in his most contemporary pages there comes to the listener the eerie feeling of déjà vu.

In ragtime, as in Mozart, melody is sine qua non. Ashwander’s melodic invention is surely one of his strongest points. Attempting neither period nor modern style, he is contemporary. Somehow, everything echoes in an Ashwander melody: Joplin, the Alabama folk music and hymns of Ashwander’s own childhood, the orthodox classicism of his own training and previous writing, the popular music from the 1920s on.

[His work] will surely take its place as an enduring contribution to seriously conceived, and seriously wrought, classic American piano-forte music.” — Rudi Blesh (1966)


Donald Ashwander (1929–1994) contributed significantly to the serious renaissance of ragtime that began in the 1960s. It gave firm notice that the classic ragtime of Scott Joplin and his contemporaries had returned to stay, with a new, serious, and understanding acceptance it had never before had. There was now a place for the young living composers to write in this idiom in a style both authentic and contemporary. Among this group — Max Morath, William Bolcom, Milton Kaye, and number of others — Donald Ashwander was one of the acknowledged leaders. This carefully curated anthology of his work includes his unreleased 1989 recording, On the Highwire, which many believe to be quintessential Ashwander. Liner notes by Max Morath.

Donald Ashwander

Donald Ashwander: Sunshine and Shadow

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On the Highwire
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