There was a time
when any young composer with an eclectic language was said ‘not
yet to have found his/her style’. It was very irritating not
least because as an under thirty, one probably lacked self-confidence.
In any case one hadn’t even a settled mode of existence let
alone a firm musical voice. Well, I’m glad to day that this
criticism is no longer in currency and eclecticism is not only
acceptable but a successful way forward and a pointer into
this new century. Witness for example Osvaldo Golijov and his
recent great successes. Listen to his extraordinary international
eclecticism as he uses music from all over the world as and
when it suits him.
Avner Dorman although
young can already be seen as an eclectic; deliberately so.
This is in evidence and not only on this fascinating disc which
demonstrates a wide range of music. It can also be heard in
some of his other works premiered of late, for example in Tel-Aviv
with his Percussion concerto. The press ‘blurb’ that was sent
with the CD says it all “a young contemporary Israeli-American … this
release of Avner Dorman’s works comes on the heels of recent
commissions from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the
Jerusalem Quartet”. He has an impressive website which is worth
a look, and note the amount of significant performances which
he has had earlier in the year (April-May 2006).
Now he has a CD
on Naxos’s interesting and very important 21st Century
Classics label. In addition Dorman is lucky to have a wonderful
pianist in Eliran Avni who is totally in tune with his needs,
and is described, quite rightly, as a ‘rising star’.
So to the music
.For some reason I didn’t at first listen to the disc in the
recorded order. In the end I am rather glad about that. I started
with the two ‘Moments Musicaux’ written so that the performer
would concentrate on the moment and not the overall design.
It’s an interesting idea, but for the listener, I feel, irrelevant.
Nevertheless the work inhabits a curious world of half-tonalities
and so I was drawn in, which I wouldn’t have been if I have
started with the opening ‘Classical’ Piano Sonata. This is
little more than a talented student work which cannot decide
what it wants to be: Prokofiev, Art Tatum, Ravel, Mozart even
the Modern Musical. The composer may well have second thoughts
about this piece when he is little older. You might like the
idea but for me it fails as does the other early work the rather
dull ‘Prelude No 1’ which relies on arpeggio accompaniment
under a reasonably pleasing melody.
After these teenage
works things improve considerably and a true and sturdy young
Dances set a new trend. The composer is more his own man when
he allows himself to be inspired by the music which is more
associated with his own country. This virtuoso work often utilizes
the 10/8 time signature, 6+4 but with other rhythmic combinations.
There is also a more lyrical middle section to contrast.
The Second Sonata
falls into two movements which is a very satisfactory form
especially as the first movement is divided into two tempo
directions. It opens as if a pianist, improvising, is sitting
trying to remember a certain tune. Some emerge but it takes
a while, before a faster speed begins. The second movement
is inspired by the piano playing of Art Tatum, so the composer
tells us; I am not so sure about that, nevertheless the whole
makes for an intriguing and original interplay of ideas.
The Third Sonata
subtitled ‘Dance Suite’ paints a picture of the landscape of
the composer’s homeland. In addition its opening section is
inspired by a blind Oud musician.(the Oud is an Arabic Lute
e.g. the French L’Oud’, becomes the English Lute). The second
movement is based on an Arabic ‘maqam’, which is a type of
scale or mode. Various dance rhythms are also incorporated
especially in the incredible finale called ‘Techno’ which uses
Jazz rhythms. What is particularly striking about these two
sonatas is the way in which the entire instrument is used,
often melodically. The Third Sonata has passages in which a
repeated, simple five note melody is heard at the bottom of
the piano surrounded by cluster harmonies which are at the
same pitch or just above it - all below the bass clef stave.
The effect is not only incredibly percussive and exciting but
also produces an effect rather like that of using quarter-tones,
which is another characteristic of ‘maqam’. The recording,
excellently, is able to convey these demanding pianistic effects
as indeed is the piano - we are not told which make. Perhaps
Avni who has written the anonymous and thorough booklet notes
including his own biography.
I am often asked,
after reviewing a disc, ‘will you keep it?’ Here the answer
is YES. I have enjoyed my first acquaintance with Avner Dorman
except for the reservation mentioned above and I want to listen
again to the 2nd and 3rd sonatas and to the Dances. I am convinced
that Dorman has some way to go and that he has been fortuitous
in finding a sympathetic record company and a terrific pianist.
I would like to hear some of the recent orchestral works. What
are the chances?