In the music of American composer Derek Bermel, familiar oppositions – between classical and vernacular, comic and serious, visceral and cerebral – start to break down. The works on this programme draw on Bermel’s kaleidoscopically varied background, both as a composer and performer. The album's five pieces are as wide-ranging intellectually as musically, their inspirations extending from theatre to gestalt psychology to theoretical physics.
Twice GRAMMY-nominated composer and performer Derek Bermel studied with Henri Dutilleux, Dutch avantgardist Louis Andriessen, and ragtime revivalist William Bolcom. In his music, seemingly antithetical qualities – classical and vernacular, comic and serious – merge and transform each other unpredictably, their inspiration ranging from theatre (Ritornello), to gestalt psychology (Figure and Ground), to meditations on cosmology (A Short History of the Universe). Thracian Sketches explores and reimagines Bulgarian folk music, while the Violin Etudes distill Bermel’s intellectual creativity into its purest form.
The widely celebrated JACK Quartet has maintained an unwavering commitment to its mission of performing and commissioning new works, giving voice to composers who are often bypassed, and cultivating an ever-greater sense of openness toward contemporary classical music. It is the quartet-in-residence at the Mannes School of Music in New York City, and hosts the JACK Frontiers Festival, a multi-faceted festival of contemporary music for string quartet.
Clarinetist/composer Derek Bermel has collaborated with an eclectic mix of musicians, from jazz luminaries Paquito D’Rivera and Luciana Souza to virtuoso violinist Midori, hip-hop legend Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), and composer/conductors John Adams and Tan Dun. Bermel has twice been nominated for GRAMMY Awards – for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Migrations (Naxos 8.559871), and Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (with Orchestra) for Voices (BMOP/sound).
Wiek Hijmans has dedicated his life’s work to integrating the electric guitar into the realm of classical music. He was the first electric guitarist to study in the classical guitar department of the Manhattan School of Music, for which he received the Andrés Segovia Award. He has toured around Europe, North America, Russia and the Far East performing recitals that feature contemporary music, and appearing as a soloist with orchestras and chamber ensembles.
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