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Avner Dorman

Publisher: G. Schirmer

After Brahms (3 intermezzi for orchestra) (2014)
Work Notes
Oboe doubles English horn if no alto sax available for movement III.
G Schirmer Inc
Year Composed
7 Minutes
Programme Note
Avner Dorman After Brahms (3 intermezzi for orchestra) (2014)
Related works:
   After Brahms (for orchestra)
   After Brahms (for piano)

Composer note:
After Brahms: Three Intermezzi for Orchestra is inspired by the late piano compositions of Johannes Brahms (Opp. 116, 117, 118, and 119). The first intermezzo derives its structure and underlying texture from the left hand arpeggios of Brahms' Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 1, and these figures appear in the lower strings and brass. While the high strings and winds evoke the original descending melodic line, they clash with Brahms' accompanimental texture both rhythmically and harmonically. The middle and low winds contend with the accompaniment as well, providing harmonic contrast. As the piece progresses the explosive elements of the texture ultimately take over, erupting energetically in both rhythm and sound.

The second intermezzo draws its inspiration from Brahms' Intermezzo Op. 119, No. 1. The original descending arpeggios change in a series of meter shifts — each bar is one pulse longer or shorter than its predecessor, creating a pendulum-like pattern. Following an ABA' form, the middle (B) section is reminiscent of popular music of the day, much like in Brahms' original intermezzo. In Brahms' case that piece could be a waltz, and in After Brahms, it evokes a pop song of the early 21st century. The final A section includes more syncopation and a wider palette of orchestral color. The end of the piece utilizes Brahms' original harmony while expanding the range and colors of the orchestra, closing in the deep register of the tuba.

While the last intermezzo, elegiac in its character, is not directly inspired by a specific Brahms piece, it is perhaps the most Brahmsian in its emotional expression and musical content. The continual descending lines, the suspended lyrical inner voice, and the variety of expressive cross-rhythms all recall Brahms' style. This piece explores these devices in the context of present-day compositional techniques, while calling on the kind of introspection and reflection so often found in Brahms' music.

— Avner Dorman


The title of Avner Dorman's orchestral work, After Brahms: three intermezzi for orchestra, captures not just the sense that the style of the works is modelled on that of the earlier composer (specifically, his late piano pieces), but also what it means to compose and hear music after the subtle and profound changes that Brahms ushered into the musical language. Dorman's pieces tap into Brahms' innovations in harmony, elastic rhythm and irregular phrase structure, and the quality of autumnal reflection that increasingly characterised his late music. The first movement, based on Brahms Intermezzo, Opus 118, No.1, explored disjunctions between angular arpeggiated figures in brass with a melody in upper strings to create a mood of restless striving, While the second, echoing Brahms' Opus 119, No.1, was characterised by gentle ambiguity of harmony and phrase with a central section evoking popular styles the way Brahms was wont to do. With no actual Brahms, the third movement was like a piece he might have written but didn't. The music is intimate in tone and simple in scope and the orchestral scale sometimes seemed too large for the ideas.
Peter McCallum, The Sydney Morning Herald,04/04/2017
The concert-opening After Brahms, three intermezzos for orchestra by Israeli-American composer Avner Dorman, which channelled the spirit of Brahms’s late piano music, proved to be weirdly beguiling.
Murray Black, The Australian,31/03/2017
The second and third movements, especially, struck this listener Wednesday as fetching morsels, short but alluring sketches replete with melodic and dramatic material drawn from or in the style of Brahms, and yet anything but derivative.
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer,20/10/2016
The first movement uses the accompaniment of Brahms’ Intermezzo, opus 118, number 1 — but a clashing new theme in the brass overpowers it. The second movement quotes from the first opus 119 Intermezzo, but it soon evolves into its own melody…amid a tonal landscape permeated with exquisite dissonances hanging in the air and delicately resolving. Finally, the third movement, though containing no actual music by Brahms, fully embraces the spirit of the older composer. The harmony still holds many modern elements…
Carmen Geraci, LexGo,16/04/2016
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