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Spices! Perfumes! Toxins! - Townsend / Leijendeckers / Huber

Spices! Perfumes! Toxins! - Townsend / Leijendeckers / Huber

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 234

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Avner Dorman: Spices, Perfumes, Toxins! - Concerto for two percussionists and orchestra
Paul Dukas: L´apprenti Sorcier (The sorcerer's apprentice)

Dan Townsend & Aron Leijendeckers (percussion)
Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie
Markus Huber (conductor)


Avner Dorman, born 1975 in Israel, is one of those contemporary composers who can write freely, unburdened by the forced experimentation of modern music. His works are technically brilliant, overflowing with tonal refinement. One of his works is the concerto for two percussionists and orchestra: Spices, Perfumes, Toxins!

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - October 2, 2017

Two super drummers playing a double concerto from a modern, for many unfamiliar composer, with the cryptic title ‘Spices, Perfumes and Toxins’, does not inspire much expectation. As it turned out: Any such idea is wrong. Whilst I don’t think that this will become anyone’s most favourite Sunday morning tune, it will surely arouse excitement, sharpen an inquisitive mind, drawing the listener into a new world of radiant sound.

For a start, these two young percussionists are devilishly good. And it’s not just rhythmic ram-bam; their range of instruments include the Marimba and the Vibraphone, enabling them to produce melody as well. Secondly, Avner Dorman, the Israeli composer, whose name does not appear on the front cover (nor, for that matter, the one of Paul Dukas, the sorcerer of the filler) took lessons from John Corigliano (Juliard School of Music), who, like him, cares more about musical expression than innovating techniques just for the sake of it.

I was curiously hooked right from the start. The more so, because it is difficult to put a label on Dorman’s brain child. In spite of a traditional fast, slow, fast set-up it does not follow traditional lines. Written in 2006 at the request of Zubin Mehta, Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic, ‘to reflect young Israeli culture’, it has jazzy elements without really becoming ‘cross over’. It feels like being absorbed in an amalgamation of Western and Eastern elements in a wider framework of liberated musical views. No preconceived style seems to be his style.

The composer gives his thoughts on each movement in the liner notes to which I happily refer, limiting myself to the following: The Spices come from the Middle-East. It’s overwhelmingly impressive and Manfred Schumacher, engineering the sound stage with an array of microphones, puts the listener right in the middle of it. I do not normally like that. I’m the sort of old fashioned gent who likes to sit in the audience with the music up front and with sufficient ambiance from the back 'to get it of the wall and make it three dimensional'. But here it makes sense. One becomes part of the thrill.

The Perfumes, the second movement, are also of the more exotic variety, scenting, as it were, like bouquet of mixed supra cultural flavours. In the third and final movement the Toxins come to the surface. The “colourful journey [moves] from the seductive to the dangerous”. Outbursts between soloists and orchestra become more and more powerful.

The often so disrespectfully called ‘filler’, lasting in this case some 12 minutes, is devoted to a distinctly competent performance of Paul Dukas’ depiction of what will happen if a Master Sorcerer leaves his pupil alone with the potion. A moral lesson: Don’t do it. Such things invariably go wrong. And that is exactly the picture coming across so vividly in Markus Huber’s rendition with the attentive assistance of the musicians of the ‘Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie’.

Regional German orchestras may not quite hit the marks of the Berlin Philharmonic and other top formations, but in my experience many are of quite a decent caliber, and some, like this one, even better, as evidenced by their cross-border activities and recordings (three of which in our hi-res catalogue). No wonder. Looking at the list of previous conductors having shaped this musical body, the more mature amongst us will note Wilhelm Schüchter, Hermann Scherchen and Michael Jurowski, indeed, Vladimir’s father. The younger generation will be impressed to learn that this orchestra was an important stepping stone to fame of Andris Nelsons, currently Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (who recently obtained a contract extension till 2022).

With a complement of 74, the ‘Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie’ serve the East Westphalia-Lippe area, thereby relying largely on local support and not in the least of that of the ‘NWD Freunde’, the orchestra’s patronage, apparently having played a decisive role in making this recording, with the orchestra’s percussionists in the soloist role, possible. We may be hugely grateful for that. An exceptional experience is their reward.

Blangy-le-Château,
Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2017 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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