Copious Notes

Lexington Philharmonic to show Avner Dorman from several angles

Avner Dorman’s After Brahms and Frozen in Time will be presented Friday by the Lexington Philharmonic.
Avner Dorman’s After Brahms and Frozen in Time will be presented Friday by the Lexington Philharmonic. avnerdormanmusic.com

Lexington Philharmonic fans will get to hear two sides of this year’s Saykaly Garbulinska composer-in-residence on Friday night, although both sides have roots in the past.

One is just much more past than the other.

The centerpiece of the evening will be the world premiere of Avner Dorman’s After Brahms, the third new work that the Philharmonic has commissioned in the last five seasons, thanks to the partnership between the orchestra and the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, which will premiere another work by Dorman in August.

As the title suggests, Dorman’s world premiere will allude to a deceased composer who is a longtime favorite of Philharmonic fans.

“The main inspiration is the piano music of Brahms,” Dorman said during a Tuesday night phone conversation. “At the time, I was writing a piece for Orli Shaham while she was recording all of Brahms’ piano pieces, and she got me into them. I learned my way through these pieces.”

For Dorman, it became an introspective process, looking at the delicate music of Brahms and incorporating it into his work.

“The idea of drawing from the past and teaching yourself something someone else left for you is very interesting,” Dorman says. “It’s like the ghost of the composer comes in and finds his way into your music.”

Preparing for the world premiere, Dorman says, Philharmonic music director and conductor Scott Terrell had some questions and clarifications, but overall, “he said he wants to do justice to the piece.”

Dorman is a conductor himself, directing the CityMusic Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, but he says when it comes to his world premieres, he prefers letting someone else conduct ... well, sort of.

“As a person, I am all for it,” he says of letting someone else take the baton. “It is much easier to let someone else perform it. As an artist, you want to hold onto it.”

Dorman likes putting his compositions in the hands of musicians whose strength is conducting. He considers himself more of a composer. At this point, he says he likes to conduct his pieces after he has heard a few other conductors’ takes on them.

The other work on Friday’s program is, Dorman says, his most successful work: the percussion concerto Frozen in Time. The way Friday’s guest soloist came to it is something of a testament to its success, as Simone Rubino won one of his major percussion prizes playing the piece. The Philharmonic catches the 22-year-old Rubino on something of a hot streak, as he was named new artist of the month for April by Musical America. Friday’s concert will be the Italian musician’s U.S. debut.

“He plays it phenomenally,” Dorman says. “It’s breathtaking to watch him.”

The work is based on the idea of all the continents being joined at one time and separating, and it highlights Dorman’s interest in North African, Asian and European music.

Frozen will be a very different look at Dorman from Brahms, and he says that it is exciting that the Philharmonic wanted to program two of his pieces, which is not common.

“Some of the more innovative orchestras — which are typically some of the smaller orchestras — will do that,” Dorman says, citing the Eugene Symphony in Oregon as an example. “For me, it gives the audience a much broader entry point to my work.”

The only other composer on Friday’s concert is Antonin Dvorak, whose classic New World Symphony will be the concert’s second half. Dorman says New World is frequently programmed with Frozen in Time, as they have similar themes.

“Pieces like New World are standard repertoire because they are so beautifully crafted,” Dorman says. “Obviously I am happy when someone considers my music worthy of programming with works like New World.”

Rich Copley: 859-231-3217, @LexGoKY.

If You Go

Lexington Philharmonic

What: The orchestra, under the direction of Scott Terrell, presents the world premiere of Avner Dorman’s After Brahms and his percussion concerto Frozen in Time with soloist Simone Rubino, as well as Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.”

When: 7:30 p.m. April 15

Where: Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St.

Tickets: $25-$75

Call: (859) 233-4226

Online: Lexphil.org, Avnerdormanmusic.com, Simonerubino.com

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