Gettysburg College Choir / Gil Shaham / Orli Shaham / Robert Natter

Avner Dorman: Letters from Gettysburg

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Here you have music from an Israeli composer, featuring one of the most prominent Jewish musicians on the U.S. scene, and a composition with a title denoting a fundamental concept in Jewish aesthetics. Yet Avner Dorman's Letters from Gettysburg is not really an album of Jewish music at all, except insofar as the composer is Jewish. Even the final work, Nigunim (subtitled Violin Sonata No. 3), is a stew of ethnic influences. It's a virtuoso piece, performed with wonderful mutual empathy by violinist Gil Shaham and his pianist sister Orli (sample the Presto finale). The opening, and major composition, is Letters from Gettysburg, commissioned by Gettysburg College (where the composer teaches) and performed by its choir. The text comes from four letters written by a New York infantryman at Gettysburg, plus one by his mother in memoriam, and the music lives up to its weighty subject. Interestingly, the words are given variously to the entire choir and to a baritone soloist. After Brahms indeed takes Brahms' late intermezzi as a point of departure but approaches this question in several ways. Dorman was a student of John Corigliano and, based on this fine release, can lay claim to being his heir apparent.

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