Born in Louisville, Kentucky (1937), Paul Ramsier showed promise as a pianist at the age of five and began composing at nine. At sixteen, he entered the University of Louisville School of Music. His graduate studies included piano with Beveridge Webster at the Juilliard School and composition with Ernst von Dohnányi at Florida State University. In his early career in New York City, he was a staff pianist with the New York City Ballet, where he was influenced by Georges Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky. During that period he studied composition with Alexei Haieff.
Ramsier’s output includes orchestral, opera, choral, instrumental, and chamber works. His body of work for the virtuoso double bass has established him as a major figure in the development of the instrument. His double bass compositions include four works with orchestra, beginning with the landmark Divertimento Concertante on a Theme of Couperin, premiered by Gary Karr with the Chicago Symphony in 1965, conducted by Seiji Osawa. The Divertimento Concertante and three subsequent works—Road to Hamelin, Eusebius Revisited, and Silent Movie—have since become bass standards, and are regarded as the most performed compositions for bass and orchestra since 1965. His one-act opera, The Man on the Bearskin Rug, is also well-known and frequently performed.
There have been over 150 performances of Ramsier’s bass works with orchestral ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony, Toronto Symphony, London Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Melbourne (Australia) Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Puerto Rico Symphony, Montevideo Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Columbus Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Israel Sinfonia, Louisville Orchestra, Istanbul State Symphony, Florida Symphony, Atlantic Symphony, Basel Symphony, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Sarasota Orchestra, McGill Chamber Orchestra, and I Musici de Montréal.
Ramsier taught composition at New York University and Ohio State University. After earning a Ph.D., he turned his attention to the study of psychoanalysis, and has since pursued a double career: psychotherapy and musical composition. Dr. Ramsier composes and practices psychotherapy in Florida. Since moving to Sarasota, the Florida West Coast Symphony has presented five of his compositions, including one commissioned by the orchestra.
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Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.
Photo: Paul Ramsier (right, standing) with George Balanchine (left) and Igor Stravinsky (center).