Released on the BMOP/sound label is the first disc of US composer Derek Bermel’s orchestral music. In outstanding performances by Boston Modern Orchestra Project under Gil Rose (and the composer on clarinet), it features Dust Dances, Elixir, Thracian Echoes and concludes with the clarinet concerto Voices.
THE PRESS have been fulsome in their praise:
‘In listening to this magnificent collection of orchestral pieces by the Brooklyn composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel, it’s difficult to know whether to be more knocked out by his stylistic versatility or his technical prowess. I’ll settle for both. Bermel’s music is intricate, witty, clear-spoken, tender and extraordinarily beautiful. It also covers an amazing amount of ground, from the West African rhythms of Dust Dances to the Bulgarian folk strains of Thracian Echoes to the shimmering harmonic splendor of Elixir. And as a sumptuous finale, there’s Voices, an elaborate clarinet concerto mixing free jazz, Irish folk melody and funk. In the hands of a composer less assured, all that globe-trotting would seem like affectation; Bermel makes it an artistic imperative.’
San Francisco Chronicle (Joshua Kosman), 22 May 2009
‘… a natural eclectic who uses classical forms and timbres as his principal medium and draws on jazz, pop and world music when he wants a particular melodic, harmonic or rhythmic twist.
But Mr. Bermel makes his colleagues seem almost passive in their style hopping. Dust Dances (1994), the vigorous opening work here, is the fruit of a four-month visit to Ghana, where Mr. Bermel studied the gyil, an African xylophone. A fascination with Bulgarian folk music took him to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, to study it for six months. That experience yielded Thracian Echoes (2002), an exotic tour that begins with sliding string figures that evolve into modal, often mournful themes, then makes its way to a set of manic, richly orchestrated folk dances.
Mr. Bermel’s influences are closer to home as well. When Dust Dances is not evoking the gyil in a blend of Western percussion and strings, it is gliding through passages that could almost pass for Gershwin. More recent jazz informs Voices (1997), a three-movement clarinet concerto in which Mr. Bermel is the colorful, virtuosic soloist and Gil Rose’s band swings along freely.
The polished and the vernacular mingle in the bent-note evocations of speech — flirting, taunting, shouting and bantering — that open the concerto, as well as in the slow movement, based on an Irish folk melody, and the wild, unabashedly down-and-dirty jazz jam that ends the piece. Mr. Rose and his Boston new-music band play it all with natural vitality. The recording, beautifully detailed, packs a solid punch in stereo and is even more strikingly visceral in surround mode, which puts the orchestra around you but preserves the listener-ensemble distance of the concert hall.’
The New York Times (Allan Kozinn), 10 May 2009
‘You might say that Derek Bermel (b.1967) is the quintessential 21st-century musician. A composition student of Henri Dutilleux, Louis Andriessen and William Bolcom (among others), Bermel is also an accomplished jazz clarinettist, has travelled the world exploring folk traditions, and performs (singing and playing keyboards and percussion) in a rock band. This staggering eclecticism is apparent in all four works… Given the very wide range of inspiration at work in these four pieces, the consistency and coherence of Bermel’s musical language is particularly impressive. He’s definitely a composer I’m eager to hear more from. I just hope that future performances are as authoritative as these by Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. The SACD recording is thrillingly vivid.’
Gramophone (Andrew Farach-Colton), July 2009
‘The American clarinettist and composer Derek Bermel is gaining increasing prominence as a postmodern force. His philosophy involves recreating the sounds of world music, jazz, rock, and funk in traditional instrumental genres, especially the symphony orchestra… his music is fresh, creative, and uniquely his own… Bermel’s clarinetistry has its own tenets; it breaks every rule of classical playing and it stretches the accepted conventions of jazz playing to the outermost limits. But it fits his music perfectly – so much so that it may inspire a school all its own.’
American Record Guide (Hanudel), July/August 2009
‘To count up the musical influences in the works on Derek Bermel’s new album, “Voices”, featuring the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, would prove impossible. He is a composer as comfortable mixing jazzy trombone riffs with plunky, Asian harp-piano duets, as with combining eerie portamento violins and Stravinsky-like primitive rhythms. To say that Bermel’s music is adventurous would be an understatement…’
Classical Voice of New England (Emily Parkhurst), May 2009
Voices mvt 1
Voices mvt 2
Voices mvt 3
Faber Musc Ltd represents the music of Derek Bermel in Europe, former Eastern Block countries, Australia and New Zealand. Enquiries from other countries should be directed to his publishers: Peermusic Classical.