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Avner Dorman

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Uriah (2009),
G Schirmer Inc
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
15 Minutes
Programme Note
Avner Dorman Uriah (2009),

January 26 2011
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
David Robertson, conductor
San Francisco, CA

Uriah is also a story of unchecked power, but it's an earnest cry of outrage instead of a puckish scherzo. David's crime was to arrange for his finest general to meet death in battle so that his beautiful wife, Bathsheba, could be returned to the marriage market, and Dorman is quick to point out that the use of soldiers as cannon fodder for the personal benefit of the powerful is by no means a phenomenon restricted to biblical times.
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle,28/01/2011
The instrumental resources for Uriah were even more extensive; and Dorman exercised those resources with a sure hand. As most of us probably know, the narrative is based on the cautionary tale of King David succumbing to lust for the wife (Bathsheba) of his best general (Uriah), his confrontation with his advisor Nathan over his sin, and his own tragic consequences. Dorman has written David, Bathsheba, and Nathan out of the story, resulting in a brief account told strictly from Uriah’s point of view in a context of “divine commentary” on the affairs of these mortals. The focus is on the battle that claims Uriah’s life, and this concentrated narration is realized at a fair clip through a sequence of five interconnected episodes. Robertson had no trouble bringing as much narrative life to this totally unfamiliar musical experience as he had mustered in his account of Dukas’ tone poem. In some brief introductory remarks Dorman summarized his plot line and then told the audience not to worry about whether or not they could follow it. This was neither false modesty nor recklessness. The music took care of itself simply through Dorman’s capacity for setting changes of mood through orchestration, and Robertson rendered every one of those moods with impeccable clarity. Every composer facing the first performance of a new work should have such an ally on his/her side.
Stephen Smoliar, San Francisco Examiner,27/01/2011
Robertson brought composer Dorman onstage to explain the Biblical tale: The general was married to the magnificent Bat-Sheba -- a problem, because King David lusted after this woman. He got her pregnant, then sent Uriah to his death on the front lines so that he, David, could take Bat-Sheba as his wife. Of course, God punished him by causing the death of their first child. Dorman explained that Uriah is a "protest piece" against the violence of corrupt political leaders. It musically tells the story over the course of about 15 minutes and five inter-locking movements, beginning with barbed textures and brass bounding upwards, like a skewed allusion to "Thus Spake Zarathustra." There are gauzy, floating passages, spiced by the Middle Eastern dumbek drum, and we imagine the loneliness of Uriah, whose isolation and fears are starkly carried by a solo bass clarinet. A sudden explosion of percussion announces his death in the work's middle section, Presto barbaro. And so it goes, this accessible and exotically scored work, with strange frosty textures and hot waves of desert color -- but maybe not quite sticking to the ribs, at least on a first listen, despite an epilogue in which tubas practically set the concert hall vibrating.
Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News,27/01/2011
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