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As CT.com readers probably already know, I'm not generally a fan of concertos for silly solo instruments, whether these be percussion (Dorman has two of those), tuba (except for Vaughan Williams), contrabassoon (Aho-yecch!), double bass, or what have you. That said, I have to confess that Dorman's Mandolin and Piccolo concertos are terrific. The former finds more timbral variety in this recalcitrant instrument than you would ever believe possible, and it seems to have been conceived with its potential in mind so as to turn any limitations to maximum expressive advantage. Soloist Avi Avital wails away at his mandolin as if his life depended on it. The same observations apply to the Piccolo Concerto; sure, it's sprightly (it has to be), but soloist Mindy Kaufman has a wonderful tone, an amazing facility with flutter-tonguing, and Dorman's sensitive use of such modernistic devices (or "ethnic," depending on your frame reference) as pitch-bending imbues the piece with real poetry.
The Concerto Grosse takes Handel and Vivaldi as inspirations, but the slow-fast-slow form is quite unconventional, and the mixture of minimalist techniques, modernist tone clusters, and frankly melodic passages is exquisitely balanced for maximum variety and color. Dorman was only 19 when he wrote his Piano Concerto; it's the most conventional work on the disc, clearly neo-Baroque, but no less charming for that in soloist Eliran Avni's capable hands. The pianissimo conclusion reveals a composer of real sensitivity and wit. None of these pieces lasts longer than seventeen minutes, all bear repetition, and the Metropolis Ensemble under Andrew Cyr sounds absolutely terrific no matter what Dorman asks them to do. This is really good stuff, a genuine discovery, beautifully played and excellently engineered. It will make you feel good about the future of contemporary Classical music. -- ClassicsToday.com, David Hurwitz, February 2010
AVNER DORMAN, a 35-year-old Israeli composer who completed his studies at the Juilliard School in 2006 and now lives in Los Angeles, writes with an omnivorous eclecticism that makes his music both accessible and impossible to pigeonhole. Themes with a modal, Middle Eastern accent often weave through sharp-edged, modernist harmonies; and the influences of jazz, pop and Indian music often crop up as well. Consistent hallmarks are the vigor of his writing and the virtuosity it demands of its interpreters.
Baroque music has been another fascination of Mr. Dorman's: an early prelude, included on a 2006 Naxos recording of his piano works, was based on a Bach figure, and in the four concertos here, composed between 1995 and 2006, Mr. Dorman lets his neo-Baroquery run wild. The works are concise three-movement forms in the standard configuration, and though Mr. Dorman has not entirely jettisoned the rhythmic complexities that drive his other works, he has made them subsidiary to the chugging rhythms of the Baroque style.
Lest that suggest that these concertos are lightweight pastiches, listen to the finale of the Piccolo Concerto (2001), a propulsive, harmonically acidic Presto that has the soloist, Mindy Kaufman, leaping perilously through her instrument's range. In the Mandolin Concerto (2006), the colorful solo line, played with stunning agility by Avi Avital, draws on all the usual mandolin techniques -- chordal tremolandos, singing melodies -- and adds bent pitches, high-velocity scampering (against sliding violin figures) and dynamic nuance.
The Piano Concerto (1995) owes an obvious debt to Bach, but its solo line is restless: it makes its way from Bachian clarity to 19th-century storminess and contemporary brashness before returning to its neo-Baroque starting point. Eliran Avni is the eloquent soloist here, and Andrew Cyr's Metropolis Ensemble, a New York group, provides crisp, energetic support throughout the disc. -- New York Times, Allan Kozinn, May 11, 2010
Although composer Avner Dorman was apparently born in the United States -- meriting his inclusion in Naxos' esteemed "American Classics" series -- he has for the most part made his career in Israel. Although his initial course of study was with John Corigliano at Juilliard, perhaps the strongest impact made on Dorman was the result of instruction with ex-Soviet, Georgian composer Josef Bardanashvili in Israel at Tel Aviv University. Dorman refined his skills as composer in a residency with the Israel Camerata between 2001 and 2003, and this helped transform his reception back home; between 2003 and 2005 Dorman won ASCAP's Morton Gould Young Composer's Award three times in a row. Naxos has already released a disc of Dorman's piano music as played by Eliran Avni; this disc focuses on the concerted music Dorman has written. In keeping within the chamber orchestra dimensions of Dorman's usual ripieno the accompaniment is provided by the expert New York-based Metropolis Ensemble, led by Andrew Cyr.
It is not hard to understand the level of enthusiasm about Dorman's music in some quarters; it is contemporary, accessible in style but not slavishly ingratiating, often speaking in modal, folk-influenced harmonic language embracing both Hebraic and Arabic elements but also incorporating some measure of Astor Piazzolla's preferences in scoring and rhythm. Dorman's fondness for rapid ostinati and rich textures may evoke a hint of minimalist style, but his music isn't minimalistic; while there is definitely a sense of stasis in the Adagio cantabile in the Piccolo Concerto (2001) and in the opening Adagio -- Allegro drammatico -- Adagio of the Concerto grosso (2003), it is not achieved through repetition. There is an attractive brightness about several of his melodic ideas, particularly in the opening Allegro of the Piano Concerto in A (1995). This is like a postmodern take on Mozart's piano concerti, whereas the Concerto grosso was by design based on Vivaldi and Handel; by comparison, the grosso seems less successful, and some listeners might take issue with Dorman's handling of forward development schemes. Overall, though, Naxos' Avner Dorman: Concertos is eminently listenable and serves to deliver on the great promise of this young composer, and all of the featured soloists acquit themselves well in these twenty first century compositions. This serves as a great antidote to the protestations of the "classical music is dead" folks; it certainly seems very much alive here. -- Allmusic.com, Uncle Dave Lewis, February 2010
Avner Dorman was born in 1975. That makes him a bit less than young in the way society views it. As a composer, though, that's still "young." His latest Naxos release of concertos, for mandolin, piccolo, piano and concerto grosso, respectively, finds him looking back at baroque forms and applying them to a music sensibility tempered by our place in today's world.
When I first listened I was almost startled by a brief musical passage (in the Concerto Grosso) that had the earmarks of an influence, of Estonian composer Arvo Paert. It hit me then that Avner Dorman is doing for the baroque and early classical periods what Paert has done for medieval-renaissance music. He has taken some of the forms, colors and structural aspects of baroque-classical music and done them over to suit his own musical consciousness. He has made the old "new." And he has done that without falling prey to the direct influences of those 20th century masters of the "neo," most particularly Stravinsky in his neo-classical period.
Instead, Avner Dorman writes Avner Dorman music. Each of the concertos on this disc, performed with real brio and devotion by Andrew Cyr and the Metropolis Ensemble, has the clarity and directness of a baroque concerto. But the musical language is different. There is a compactness of expression, a delicacy of delivery, a restrained lyricism not super-saturated in romantic or late romantic emotionalism.
Dorman could well be an important voice in the concert music of our era. It's too soon to say. It is not too soon to recommend this CD. It delivers a music that has all the freshness of the first spring flower. -- Gapplegate Music Review, February 12, 2010
Four neo-baroque concertos by an Israeli-born composer, who's now resident in the U.S., are the order of the day on this spirited release from Naxos. With a double major in music and physics, Avner Dorman (b. 1975) got his undergraduate and master's degrees at Tel Aviv University, and then went on to earn his doctorate in composition at Julliard, where he studied with John Corigliano (b. 1938). His informative album notes tells us he's loved baroque music ever since he was a kid, and this shows in the articulately piquant pieces presented here.
The mandolin concerto (2006) and concerto grosso (2003) are each in three loosely connected sections that follow a slow-fast-slow scheme. The former opens and closes pensively with occasional kinetically twitchy episodes recalling earlier mandolin showpieces by "The Red Priest." Middle Eastern influences (see the newsletter of 15 March 2008 and 7 January 2009) are present in the central allegro.
Dorman tells us his concerto grosso was influenced by Henryk Górecki (b. 1933) and Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) in that it's a minimalized version of what was standard fare in baroque times. The main idea is the first theme from George Frideric Handel's (1685-1759) Op. 6, No. 4 (1739), and Avner's solo group is a string quartet with harpsichord. There are sinister sounds reminiscent of Gestapo sirens in the opening adagio that recall the first and last movements of Corigliano's string symphony (No. 2, 2000). Some fancy fiddling à la Vivaldi (1678-1741) is to be found in the following presto, and then the concerto ends with a another pensive adagio. The juxtaposition of minimalist understatement and Latin volatility give the piece a character all of its own. Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) would have found it a real curiosity!
The piccolo (2001) and piano (1995) concerti each have fast outer movements surrounding a slow inner one. Contrapuntal devices common in the Baroque and Classical periods are employed in the former, and there's even an amusing reference [track-4, beginning at 02:20] to the last movement of J.S. Bach's (1685-1750) second orchestral suite (1717-23). While this piece has a neo-classical patina worthy of Stravinsky (1882-1971), jazz, popular, and Middle Eastern connotations are also present. A busy piano continuo adds considerable bounce to the score, and may bring to mind the more hyperactive creations of Paul Schoenfield (b. 1947) and Michael Torke (b. 1961).
The program ends with the piano concerto, where a multitude of stylistic references flash on and off like fireflies on a summer night. The old expression, "raging hormones," might best describe the two outer movements in which baroque, romantic, jazz, pop and folk elements all coexist. The concluding presto even has a theme whose beginning sounds like "God Save the Tsar" [track-12, beginning at 03:02]. The composer tells us the central andante is a song without words, and it proves Avner is an inspired melodist when he wants to be.
All of the soloists deserve a big hand for their uniformly excellent performances. They include mandolinist Avi Avtal, piccoloist Mindy Kaufman, and pianist Eliran Avni. They're given sterling support by the New York City based Metropolis Ensemble (ME) under its founding conductor, Andrew Cyr. Special thanks should also go to ME violinists Lily Francis and Arnaud Sussmann, as well as violist Eric Nowlin, cellist Michal Korman, and harpsichordist Aya Hamada for their fine concertino work in the concerto grosso. Let's hope we'll be hearing more from this exceptional chamber orchestra in the very near future.
These recordings are models of clarity and produce an ideally proportioned soundstage commensurate with an ensemble of this size. All of the solo instruments are perfectly captured and balanced against the rest of the orchestra. Contemporary music lovers and audiophiles alike will be pleased with this release. -- Classical Lost and Found, Bob McQuiston, February 28, 2010
Israeli composer Avner Dorman was trained at the Juilliard School and lives in Los Angeles, where he does some work on movie soundtracks. So Naxos is promoting him in its American Classics series. Be happy for it, because the four concertos assembled here are some of the most appealing new music heard in a long time. The Mandolin Concerto uses a lot of Middle Eastern motifs. The Piccolo Concerto could claim neoclassical Stravinsky as a godfather. The Concerto Grosso sounds like a minimalist take on Corelli. And the Piano Concerto in A hilariously uses a simple scale as a theme to poke fun at showy virtuosity. For all their eclecticism, these pieces reveal a strong common profile - with tragic ferocity lurking under the sparkling surfaces.
The performances are stellar, the sound superb. -- The Dallas Morning News, Lawson Taitte, February 23, 2010
My first encounter with the music of Avner Dorman was by pure chance: in a local library I saw a disc of his piano works played by Eliran Avni (also on Naxos). After listening I thought: "Wow! I wonder how he does orchestral." Then I had the exquisite pleasure of hearing live his concerto for percussion and orchestra Spices! Perfumes! Toxins! - and was conquered by its exuberance, beauty and richness of musical invention. And then I thought: "Wow again! But maybe it is a one-time success?" The present disc confirms: Avner Dorman is indeed a bright star in today's musical sky. He can do it. He just can. His music is not cheap or derivative, and it only gives more pleasure with each new hearing...So, these are the four concertos. They may not be the most profound, critical-analytical or revolutionary. But music is first and foremost a beautiful art. And these concertos are definitely beautiful art. It would probably be better not to listen to them in a single run: you'll discover more facets if you encounter them one by one.
The recording quality is excellent. Each soloist is ideally balanced with the strings. I especially admired the recording of the mandolin: the ringing aura of the sound is palpable. The liner-notes by the composer are very interesting. The playing of the Metropolis Ensemble led by Andrew Cyr is excellent: sensitive, supportive, very accurate and finely balanced, with a lot of spirit.
I am really happy that there are composers like Avner Dorman. I wish him a great future, for one shameless and purely selfish reason: I just love his music! -- Music Web International, Oleg Ledeniov
The music of Israeli composer Avner Dorman is so vivacious and so technically proficient that it's hard to resist on a superficial level. All it needs to make it fly is some original musical ideas. Instead, the four concertos on this disc - intriguingly scored ones for mandolin, piccolo and piano, as well as a concerto grosso - traffic almost exclusively in allusion and pastiche. Bach is a constant presence, especially in the Piano Concerto, but Dorman also leaps happily around among jazz, pop, Romanticism and Middle Eastern strains. The result is music you already know, shuffled and recombined into an appealingly glib package. Most rewarding is the Mandolin Concerto, which fuses Baroque and Middle Eastern gestures in unusual ways, and which ends with a surprising flourish. The rest mostly gets by on its considerable surface charm, but doesn't linger long in the memory. -- San Francisco Chronicle, Joshua Kosman, February 7, 2010
The resurgence of interest in tonal composition that began with the minimalist rebellion in the 1960s has now fully matured, and is represented by such brilliant young artists as Avner Dorman, who unapologetically draws on influences like the baroque concerto but writes music that is undeniably of its time and place. This wonderful program of three concertos and one concerto grosso, all beautifully performed and recorded, is nearly enough to restore the confidence of the most hardened pessimist in the future of classical music. -- Baker & Taylor CD Hotlist, Rick Anderson, March 2010
Very memorable music without being simplistic or easy. If you like music like the Prokofiev concertos you should like this stuff. Highly recommended.Published 4 months ago by Christopher Ammons
Interesting CD. Especially I liked the two last compositions where modern sounds and baroque hints merge into one fascinating texture. The sound quallity is good. Worth buying.Published 8 months ago by Yoselovich Boris
This is another CD which amazes the listener with the talents of the mandolin player accompanied by other instruments also well played. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Avid reader