Letters From Gettysburg, After Brahms, Nigunim

Available on CD and digital download

Robert Natter Conductor

The Gettysburg College Choir

Avner Dorman Composer

Avner Dorman has fast become one of the most sought-after composers of his generation. In 2018, he received the prestigious Azrieli Prize for composition for his second violin concerto. His debut opera, Wahnfried, commissioned by Staatstheater Karlsruheas a counterpoint to their new Ring cycle in 2017, received unanimous and enthusiastic reviews, and was a nominee in the 2018 International Opera Awards, in the category of World Premiere.

Letters from Gettysburg, a work scored for soprano, baritone, large chorus,and percussion, is the centerpiece in this all-Dorman release. Written in 2013 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, it was commissioned by the Gettysburg College American Civil War Sesquicentennial Planning Committee. Following its premiere, Letters from Gettysburg was broadcast on radio stations across the U.S., including KUSC, WWFM, and WETA.

The text for Letters from Gettysburg, Dorman writes, “comes mostly from letters written by 1st Lieutenant Rush P. Cady – Co. K, 97th New York Infantry, who was fatally wounded during the Battle of Gettysburg and died a few days later. ”In five movements, organized in symmetrical arc form, Letters from Gettysburg displays Dorman’s soulful expression as a composer, combined with inventive vocal writing. These powerful texts are poignantly supported by percussion scoring that creates an almost supernatural ambience, recalling the tragic events of the War.

Coupled on this recording are two Dorman works commissioned by Orli and Gil Shaham. Dorman composed After Brahms, three short pieces for solo piano, for Orli Shaham’s solo project, “Brahms Inspired.” In each of the movements, Dorman cleverly extends the harmonic language of Brahms while still preserving the stylistic vernacular of his own music. The violin sonata, Nigunim, was commissioned by Orli and her brother Gil for a “Hebrew Melodies” project, released on Canary Classics in 2012. Nigunim draws on the musical influences of Jewish song, hailing from locations around the world – Africa, the Caucasus, the Balkans, and Central Asia. With these global influences, the listener can imagine, hypothetically, the music of the Ten Lost Tribes. After Nigunim’s premiere, San Diego Today affirmed that “it was hard to miss [its] visceral excitement and structural elegance,” and the Boston Globe admired the “uncommonly intriguing sounds.”

Hailed as a “brilliant young Israeli composer” by Stephen Brookes in The Washington Post, Dorman is currently an associate professor of composition at the Sunderman Conservatory of Music at Gettysburg College. He is also an active conductor, having served as music director of CityMusic Cleveland Chamber Orchestra for six years.


Mr. Dorman, a prolific Israeli composer who studied with John Corigliano and shares his former teacher's penchant for an eclectic, emotionally direct musical language... Mr. Dorman's colorful but disciplined, intensely focused style is suited to the subject matter, and he has produced a work that appeals to pacifist sensibilities by showing the devastation of war as human, personal and direct. The Gettysburg College Choir and the Tremolo Percussion Ensemble—which is used vigorously in the "Battle" movement, and more subtly elsewhere—perform the piece with eloquence and precision under the baton of Robert Natter in this 2015 studio recording.

Different sides of Mr. Dorman's instrumental writing are on display in "After Brahms—Three Intermezzos for Piano" (2014) and "Nigunim (Violin Sonata No. 3)" (2011). "After Brahms" channels the sensibility of Brahms's late piano music, in both its explosively turbulent and gently introspective manifestations, and is played with both power and poetry by Orli Shaham. "Nigunim" builds on the modal melodic turns of Jewish music (a nigun is a short, repeating melody that can be used in anything from prayer to klezmer performances; nigunim is the plural), expanded upon and recast in the Romantic bravura style. In that spirit, Gil Shaham gives the piece a high-energy, virtuosic reading, with firm support from Ms. Shaham on the piano.

Wall Street Journal

Letters from Gettysburg is an extraordinarily haunting five-movement work that elevates the experience of one man into a memorial to all victims of war.I have listened to this ingeniously crafted piece a half dozen times and each time I have been moved anew, mesmerized by Dorman’s brilliant treatment of Lt. Cady’s words...exquisite performances by soloists Amanda Heim and Lee Poulis, the Gettysburg College Choir, and the Tremolo Percussion Ensemble under the direction of Robert Natter. This impressive CD also includes After Brahms: Three Intermezzos for Piano, which Dorman wrote for pianist Orli Shaham...a very gifted pianist. Her performance here is exquisite. "Nigunim: Violin Sonata No. 3” by Dorman ... is a wildly demanding piece, an ambitious multicultural grab bag. The Shahams’ performances are exhilarating, as one expects from these daring artists.

Arts Fuse

Heads up, Civil War buffs. Gettysburg College professor and CityMusic Cleveland director Avner Dorman here presents an unusual and poignant commemoration of the war's bloodiest battle with "Letters From Gettysburg," a choral work based on the writings of one victim. In what often sounds like a memorial service, complete with tolling bells, Dorman offers everything from ritualistic chanting and winding, gently dissonant melodies to a frenzied depiction of the fighting aided by the Tremolo Percussion Ensemble. The only thing more powerful would be a visit to the battleground itself. Rounding out the disc are two other works by Dorman, in collaboration with Orli and Gil Shaham: a set of three temperamental Intermezzos for piano, and "Nigunim," a virtuoso violin sonata founded on aspects of Jewish religious melody.

Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer