About this Recording
8.559620 - DORMAN, A.: Mandolin Concerto / Piccolo Concerto / Concerto Grosso / Piano Concerto(Avital, Kaufman, Avni, Metropolis Ensemble, Cyr)

Avner Dorman (b. 1975)
Concertos for Mandolin, Piccolo, Piano and Concerto Grosso


“…a fresh, young voice, worth following.” – The Gramophone (UK)

“Such brilliantly composed contemporary music hasn’t been heard for a long time in the concert hall.” – Donaukurier (Germany)

Avner Dorman is quickly emerging as one of the leading voices of his generation. He won Israel’s prestigious Prime Minister’s Award and the Golden Feather Award from ACUM (the Israeli Society of Composers and Publishers) for his Ellef Symphony at the age of 25. Since then, some of the world’s finest conductors, including Zubin Mehta, Marin Alsop, Asher Fisch, Simone Young and Michael Stern have commissioned him and brought his music to audiences of the New York Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Munich Philharmonic, the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Musikverein, the Hamburg Philharmonic, and the Cabrillo Music Festival, among others.

Dorman’s music achieves a rare combination of rigorous compositional construction while preserving the sense of excitement and spontaneity usually associated with jazz, rock, or ethnic music. Masterful in his innovative use of percussion, Dorman’s two percussion concertos, Spices, Perfumes, Toxins! and Frozen in Time are popular with soloists, orchestras, and audiences worldwide.

Born in 1975, Avner Dorman holds a Doctorate in Composition from the Juilliard School, where he studied with John Corigliano. Prior to that his primary composition teacher was the Georgian-Israeli composer Josef Bardanashvili. He served as composer-in-residence for the Israel Camerata from 2001 to 2003. He was the lead composition faculty at the Cabrillo Music Festival 2009. Dorman has received several international awards from ACUM, ASCAP, and the Asian Composers League. Avner Dorman’s music is exclusively published by G. Schirmer.

Composer’s Note

I have always loved baroque music. Even as a young child, when I did not care much for classical or romantic styles, I found baroque very exciting and closer to the music of our day. In retrospect, I guess it was the clear rhythms, the strong reliance on the bass, and the extreme contrasts that made this music appeal to me. I’d like to thank the soloists, Metropolis Ensemble, conductor Andrew Cyr, producer David Frost and Naxos for recording these four neo-baroque concertos for the first time.

One of my favorite things as a composer is to discover and explore new instruments. When Avi Avital approached me to write Mandolin Concerto (2006), my acquaintance with the mandolin was fairly limited. As I got to know the instrument better, I discovered its diverse sonic and expressive possibilities.

Mandolin Concerto’s main conflicts are between sound and silence and between motion and stasis. What inspired me to deal with these opposites is the mandolin’s most basic technique—the tremolo, which is the rapid repetition of notes. The tremolo embodies both motion and stasis. The rapid movement provides momentum, while the pitches remain the same. Mandolin Concerto employs numerous extended techniques in the soloist and ensemble parts. The most obvious one is the detuning of the mandolin at the end of the piece. Another example is the use of pizzicati harmonics in the mandolin while the orchestra holds high harmonic clusters at the end of the first part of the composition.

The concerto can be divided into three main sections. The first part is slow and meditative. The tremolo and silences accumulate energy which is released in occasional, fast, kinetic outbursts. The main motifs of the entire concerto are introduced, all of which are based on the minor and major second. The second part is fast and dance-like and alludes to Middle Eastern music. It accumulates energy leading to a culmination at its end. The tremolo of the opening part is transformed into a relentless repetition in the bass—like a heartbeat. This part is constructed much like a Baroque concerto and pays homage to Bach’s violin concertos. The third part is a recapitulation of the opening. After the energy is depleted, all that is left is to delve deeper into the meditation of the opening and concentrate on a pure melody and an underlying heartbeat.

Piccolo Concerto (2001) consists of three movements—fast, slow, and fast. The musical material is drawn from diverse genres: Baroque and Classical music, Ethnic music, Jazz, and Popular music.

Baroque and Classical: Throughout the work, there are several fugues and canons, characteristic of Baroque music. The first movement is based on the classical sonata form. I also use many sequential patterns and other clichés of 18th century music juxtaposed in unusual polytonal textures.

Ethnic: To my ears, the piccolo’s bottom octave sounds very similar to Middle Eastern shepherd’s flutes. In the second movement, especially, I emphasize this similarity by using characteristic modes of Middle Eastern music, as well as common styles of ornamentation from the region. Another reference to my home region is the imitation of the sounds of desert winds and of the Mediterranean Sea in the second part of the second movement.

Jazz and Popular music: From the very first notes of the concerto, the juxtaposition of a steady beat in the bass with syncopations in the upper parts serves as a key compositional technique. Frequently, the classical and ethnic motifs are accompanied by short repetitive patterns. This simple device leads to complex polyrhythms. In certain sections of the piece, these repetitive rhythms together with the basso continuo lines emulate modern drum-machines. Also, in some sections, the soloist’s part is supposed to sound as if improvised, although every note is written out accurately in the score.

In 2002 conductor Aviv Ron asked me to write a concerto for his orchestra for a series dedicated to Baroque concertos. He wanted the piece to allude to the music of Handel and Vivaldi (and not Bach), and I gladly accepted the challenge and composed Concerto Grosso (2003).

I used the opening theme of Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 4 as my main motif and Vivaldi’s signature virtuosic patterns as the rhythmic driving force. Concerto Grosso can be described as a “minimalist” take on Baroque music, influenced by composers such as Górecki, Pärt, and Glass, and stretching their techniques to new extremes. The soloists are comprised of a string quartet and harpsichord. Like a traditional concerto grosso, they serve as both soloists and as leaders for the large ensemble. Structurally, the piece has three large sections—(i) slow, (ii) fast, and (iii) slow. The opening slow section is interrupted twice by outbursts of energy, and the middle fast section gives way to a static exploration of sound toward its culmination.

I composed Piano Concerto in A (1995) at the age of nineteen. I heard a recording of Bach’s keyboard Concerto in A major on the radio (performed on piano and strings) and found the bright sound of the violins doubling the piano’s top line very exciting. Immediately, I improvised the opening tutti of my Piano Concerto in A. This was the first time I wrote a neo-baroque piece. I found the challenge of doing something new while keeping the transparency and directness of an older style very appealing. I got even more ecstatic when I realized that using the idea of Baroque figured bass enabled me easily to integrate jazz, pop and rock elements into the music. Even though the concerto is dedicated to Vivaldi, one can also find in it allusions to Nina Simone, The Police, The Cure, Stravinsky, and of course, to Bach. Throughout the composition, the soloist borrows patterns that are idiomatic to the string instruments of the orchestra and transforms them into keyboard patterns.

The piece is in three movements: fast-slow-fast. The first and third movements use the tutti-solo convention of the Baroque era. The second is a song without words.

Avner Dorman

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