Although composer Avner Dorman was apparently born in the United States -- meriting his inclusion in Naxos' esteemed "American Classics" series -- he has for the most part made his career in Israel. Although his initial course of study was with John Corigliano at Juilliard, perhaps the strongest impact made on Dorman was the result of instruction with ex-Soviet, Georgian composer Josef Bardanashvili in Israel at Tel Aviv University. Dorman refined his skills as composer in a residency with the Israel Camerata between 2001 and 2003, and this helped transform his reception back home; between 2003 and 2005 Dorman won ASCAP's Morton Gould Young Composer's Award three times in a row. Naxos has already released a disc of Dorman's piano music as played by Eliran Avni; this disc focuses on the concerted music Dorman has written. In keeping within the chamber orchestra dimensions of Dorman's usual ripieno the accompaniment is provided by the expert New York-based Metropolis Ensemble, led by Andrew Cyr.
It is not hard to understand the level of enthusiasm about Dorman's music in some quarters; it is contemporary, accessible in style but not slavishly ingratiating, often speaking in modal, folk-influenced harmonic language embracing both Hebraic and Arabic elements but also incorporating some measure of Astor Piazzolla's preferences in scoring and rhythm. Dorman's fondness for rapid ostinati and rich textures may evoke a hint of minimalist style, but his music isn't minimalistic; while there is definitely a sense of stasis in the Adagio cantabile in the Piccolo Concerto (2001) and in the opening Adagio -- Allegro drammatico -- Adagio of the Concerto grosso (2003), it is not achieved through repetition. There is an attractive brightness about several of his melodic ideas, particularly in the opening Allegro of the Piano Concerto in A (1995). This is like a postmodern take on Mozart's piano concerti, whereas the Concerto grosso was by design based on Vivaldi and Handel; by comparison, the grosso seems less successful, and some listeners might take issue with Dorman's handling of forward development schemes. Overall, though, Naxos' Avner Dorman: Concertos is eminently listenable and serves to deliver on the great promise of this young composer, and all of the featured soloists acquit themselves well in these twenty first century compositions. This serves as a great antidote to the protestations of the "classical music is dead" folks; it certainly seems very much alive here.