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Avner Dorman

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Concerto Grosso (2003)
G Schirmer Inc
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
13 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
String quartet, harpsichord
Programme Note
Avner Dorman Concerto Grosso (2003)
Composer's Note:

I have always loved baroque music. Even as a young child, when I did not care for classical or romantic music, 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.

In 2002, Israeli conductor Aviv Ron approached me to write a concerto for his orchestra for a series dedicated to Baroque concertos. He wanted a piece based on the music of Handel and Vivaldi, and I gladly accepted the challenge.

I chose to use the opening theme of Handel’s Concerto Grosso, opus 6, no.4 as my main motif and Vivaldi’s signature virtuosic patterns as the rhythmic driving force of the piece. The piece can be described as a “minimalist” take on baroque music, influenced by Górecki, Pärt, and Glass, and taking their techniques to new extremes.

The soloists are comprised of a String Quartet and a Harpsichord. As in 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.

Concerto Grosso was premiered in February of 2003; its revised version was premiered in November of the same year.

— Avner Dorman

  • Ensemble
    Metropolis Ensemble
    Avi, Avital (mandolin), Mindy Kaufman (piccolo), Eliran Avni (piano), Arnaud Sussmann (violin), Eric Nowlin (viola), Michal Korman (cello), Aya Hamada (piano)
    Andrew Cyr
There’s more on the CD to recommend as well. The Metropolis Ensemble, with a passel of soloists in concertino tow, sparkle in the Concerto Grosso (2003). The work features virtuosic string writing and cinematic sweep. Indeed, here Dorman displays a fluency of orchestration that in places reminds one of John Corigliano, his teacher during doctoral studies at Juilliard.
Christian Carey,,15/12/2010
Israeli composer Avner Dorman was trained at the Juilliard School and lives in Los Angeles, where he does some work on movie soundtracks. So Naxos is promoting him in its American Classics series. Be happy for it, because the four concertos assembled here are some of the most appealing new music heard in a long time. The Mandolin Concerto uses a lot of Middle Eastern motifs. The Piccolo Concerto could claim neoclassical Stravinsky as a godfather. The Concerto Grosso sounds like a minimalist take on Corelli. And the Piano Concerto in A hilariously uses a simple scale as a theme to poke fun at showy virtuosity. For all their eclecticism, these pieces reveal a strong common profile - with tragic ferocity lurking under the sparkling surfaces. The performances are stellar, the sound superb.
Lawson Taitte, The Dallas Morning News,23/02/2010
As 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 Grosso 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.
David Hurwitz,,10/02/2010
The music of Israeli composer Avner Dorman is so vivacious and so technically proficient that it's hard to resist on a superficial level. All it needs to make it fly is some original musical ideas. Instead, the four concertos on this disc - intriguingly scored ones for mandolin, piccolo and piano, as well as a concerto grosso - traffic almost exclusively in allusion and pastiche. Bach is a constant presence, especially in the Piano Concerto, but Dorman also leaps happily around among jazz, pop, Romanticism and Middle Eastern strains. The result is music you already know, shuffled and recombined into an appealingly glib package. Most rewarding is the Mandolin Concerto, which fuses Baroque and Middle Eastern gestures in unusual ways, and which ends with a surprising flourish.
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle,07/02/2010
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