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Avner Dorman

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Ellef Symphony (2000)
G Schirmer Inc
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
19 Minutes
Programme Note
Avner Dorman Ellef Symphony (2000)
Related works:
   Savage Overture

Note: SAVAGE OVERTURE is the second movement of ELLEF SYMPHONY.

Ellef Symphony was composed for the Young-Euro-Classical Festival in Berlin in the year 2000. It was first performed by the Young Israel Philharmonic on August 13, 2000 at the Schauspielhaus in Berlin, and on August 14, 2000 at the Expo 2000 in Hanover. The piece went on to win ACUM’s Golden Feather Award in 2001, and was one of three pieces for which the composer received Israel’s prestigious Prime-Minister’s Award in 2000.

The piece has four parts that are performed continuously. The first three parts are inspired by Jewish poetry of the second millennium (1000-2000), each concerned with a different aspect of war. The fourth movement leaves hopes that the poetry of the third millennium will not have to deal with wars.

I. Fear: The impetus of this movement, the collective experience of fear during a time of war, comes from a poem by Shmuel ha-Nagid (993-1056). Shmuel ha-Nagid was a Talmudic scholar, grammarian, philologist, poet, warrior, and statesman, who lived in Spain at the time of the Moorish rule.

II. Slaughter: The second movement touches on the experience of war itself and of the suffering inflicted on people during times of war. “About the Slaughter” by Haim Nachman Bialik (1873-1934), Israel’s National Poet, is the source material. Bialik wrote prolifically about the Jewish experience in Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century.

III. Elegy: Dealing with the pain of an individual mother having lost a son, this movement was inspired by a poem from Yuval Rappaport. (b. 1975), a young Israeli poet, actor, and playwright.

IV. … (silence): This movement shifts to the hope that the third millennium will take humanity in a new direction. Metaphorically, I wanted to treat the new millennium as an empty canvas, a poem unwritten, where it is up to us to write the poem of the future.

The main motive of Ellef Symphony is the repetition of a single note four times followed by silence. In the first movement this motive is played slowly in a gothic manner, expressing fear. In the second movement it is played rapidly and accented, as if imitating the sound of swords and guns. In the 3rd the acoustic beats which are a result of the dense harmony imply tense heartbeats while in the fourth, it almost disappears, leaving after it silence.

— Avner Dorman

Composed in 2000, Dorman's Ellef Symphony holds particular resonance 11 years later, as events in the Middle East veer out of control. It is about the fear and violence of the last millennium, but also hope for the future. Its ominous open strains and quiet ending form bookends of quietude, but in the intervening moments its crashing percussion and piercing brass are poignant and disturbing reminders of war, the unmeasured string tremolos in the third movement turning into heart-palpitating foreboding. A bell signals an end to violence, and the prospect of peace and nonviolence. Beautifully scored and viscerally performed by ASO, it should be placed in the class of 20th century anti-war classics by the likes of Schoenberg, Britten and Penderecki.
Michael Huebner , The Birmingham News,25/02/2011
And the best news of all: The contemporary Ellef Symphony was the highlight of the evening, with 33-year-old Dorman present to accept the audience’s thundering ovation. It is so pleasing to report a new work that is more than just noise, but offers new melody, harmony, rhythm and new timbres (or colors) — wholly original but tradition linking. Dorman’s blend of percussion with the other instrumental groups alone makes this work stand out from so many that lean excessively on percussion to call it “original.” Dorman’s work actually started and ended in the key of D; can you believe it?
Tom Aldridge, Nuvo (Indianapolis),11/06/2008
Avner Dorman's Ellef (Millennium) Symphony, in which he puts three Jewish poems of different eras into music, shows to be a piece of surprisingly competent craftsmanship, not lacking in musical power either.
Stefan Melle, Berliner Zeitung,15/08/2000
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