Avi Avital, mandolinist; Mindy Kaufman, piccoloist; Eliran Avni, pianist; Metropolis Ensemble, conducted by Andrew Cyr. Naxos 8.559620; CD.
AVNER DORMAN, a 35-year-old Israeli composer who completed his studies at the Juilliard School in 2006 and now lives in Los Angeles, writes with an omnivorous eclecticism that makes his music both accessible and impossible to pigeonhole. Themes with a modal, Middle Eastern accent often weave through sharp-edged, modernist harmonies; and the influences of jazz, pop and Indian music often crop up as well. Consistent hallmarks are the vigor of his writing and the virtuosity it demands of its interpreters.
Baroque music has been another fascination of Mr. Dorman’s: an early prelude, included on a 2006 Naxos recording of his piano works, was based on a Bach figure, and in the four concertos here, composed between 1995 and 2006, Mr. Dorman lets his neo-Baroquery run wild. The works are concise three-movement forms in the standard configuration, and though Mr. Dorman has not entirely jettisoned the rhythmic complexities that drive his other works, he has made them subsidiary to the chugging rhythms of the Baroque style.
Lest that suggest that these concertos are lightweight pastiches, listen to the finale of the Piccolo Concerto (2001), a propulsive, harmonically acidic Presto that has the soloist, Mindy Kaufman, leaping perilously through her instrument’s range. In the Mandolin Concerto (2006), the colorful solo line, played with stunning agility by Avi Avital, draws on all the usual mandolin techniques — chordal tremolandos, singing melodies — and adds bent pitches, high-velocity scampering (against sliding violin figures) and dynamic nuance.
The Piano Concerto (1995) owes an obvious debt to Bach, but its solo line is restless: it makes its way from Bachian clarity to 19th-century storminess and contemporary brashness before returning to its neo-Baroque starting point. Eliran Avni is the eloquent soloist here, and Andrew Cyr’s Metropolis Ensemble, a New York group, provides crisp, energetic support throughout the disc. ALLAN KOZINN