Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
Avner Dorman is a major compositional talent. Sure, we’ve heard plenty of Baroque-inspired pieces before, from the opening of Tippett’s Second Symphony, tons of Martinu and Stravinsky, to Karl Jenkins’ “Diamond Music” commercials. As this list suggests, the quality of such music ranges from superb (Tippett, Stravinsky, and Martinu) to junk (Jenkins). Happily, Dorman’s pieces clearly stand closer to the former category than to the latter. He describes his style as a combination of Baroque, jazz, rock, and ethnic (Middle Eastern) influences, and that’s exactly what it is, but happily his own personality is strong enough to absorb and synthesize these various elements into a convincing personal idiom.
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.
Buy Now from Arkiv Music
Recording Details:Reference Recording: none
AVNER DORMAN - Concertos for Mandolin; Piccolo; Piano; Concerto Grosso (for Harpsichord and Strings)