The title Frozen in Time
refers to imaginary snapshots of the Earth’s geological development from prehistoric times to the present day. Although we cannot be sure what the Earth looked like millions of years ago, most scientists agree that the separate continents used to be one mega-continent (as most agree that mankind descended from one prehistoric womb). Each movement imagines the music of a large prehistoric continent at a certain point in time:
I. Indoafrica: The piece opens with a grand gesture, like an avalanche, that is followed by a “time freeze.” The main theme of the first movement is based on South Indian rhythm cycles (Tālas) and scales. The range of the theme is gradually expanded like a spiral, as it would in classical Indian improvisation. The second theme is based on the inner rhythm of the Tāla, which is also found in some traditions of West-African music. As the solo percussionist starts playing the theme on the Marimba and the Cencerros (a keyboard of cowbells), it becomes more similar to Gamelan music of Southeast Asia. The soloist then returns to the drum-set and takes the music back to it African origins building the movement up to an ecstatic culmination. At this point, the opening avalanche returns as a burst of emotions rather than a natural phenomenon. After a short cadenza, the movement wraps up with a fugue that recaps the themes of the opening section.
II. Eurasia: The second movement is an exploration of the darker sides of the mega-continent of Eurasia where emotions run deep but are kept quiet (the movement mainly deals with the traditions of central Europe and central and eastern Asia). The opening bass drum rhythm (which is borrowed from the Siciliana
) and the long high notes in the strings separate this movement from the outer ones in terms of geography and climate. Also, the fact that the soloist only uses metal instruments in this movement makes it colder and more northern in character. The melodic materials of this movement are inspired by Mozart’s Sicilianas
which appear in some of his most intimate and moving movements (Piano Concerto K.488, Sonata K.280, Rondo K.511 and the aria “Ach, ich Fühl’s”). One can hear that war is brewing under the surface throughout the movement although it only erupts briefly in the form of central Asian bells and modes that invade the introspective mood of the Siciliana
. The movement ends with a long meditation on the opening theme – with many moments frozen in time.
III. The Americas: The final movement is a snapshot of the present (The Americas are, in fact, still one continent). Moreover, the mixture of cultures is a staple of modern America. The final movement is constructed as a rondo. The refrain represents mainstream American styles (Broadway at first, American Symphonic style in its second repeat, Mellow Jazz in the third, and Grunge Music - Seattle Style Rock - in its final repeat). The episodic sections explore other sounds of the Americas: the Tango, AfroCuban Jazz, Swing, and Minimalism. As American music is by nature inclusive, the movement includes a recapitulation of African, European and Asian music, tying the piece together.
Both the terrific contemporary score and Gaffigan proved as welcome as the cooling misters city officials had installed at the south end of the Great Lawn.
Dorman, 37, an Israeli-born composer who has been living in the U.S. since 2002, when he moved to New York to study with John Corigliano at the Juilliard School, is known for his omnivorous musical manner that tosses diverse musical styles in a blender and winds up with frothy concoctions that are not only remarkably coherent but also most enjoyable to perform and to listen to.
Frozen in Time is one such piece. A 25-minute percussion concerto written for Wednesday's soloist, the young Austrian percussion whizbang, Martin Grubinger (who premiered it in Hamburg in 2007), its three movements purport to be "imaginary snapshots" of the primordial land masses that supposedly broke off from the continent of Pangaea – "Indoafrica," "Eurasia" and "The Americas" are the movement titles.
The listener requires no such programmatic crutch to appreciate what this colorful, high-energy showpiece is about: two furious fast movements surrounding a slow, lyrical movement, moshing together grunge rock, Afro-Cuban jazz, ethnic, swing, blues and other popular musical impulses in a way that appears perfectly natural rather than simple-minded pastiche.
Playing from memory and surrounded by a battery of 23 (count 'em) percussion instruments, Grubinger tore into the score like the virtuoso dervish he is. In the first movement, dizzying flights of marimba set off riffing exchanges with the orchestra, driven by jazzy rhythms in the brass, to which are added drums and a keyboard of cowbells. Everyone piled on as the music drove to a deafening climax.
Metallic percussion lent a Minimalist sheen to the calm central movement, in which Mozart's sicilianas echoed in the shimmers of metallophone and Asian bells. The rondo finale was pure sonic fun, a melting pot of musical Americana turned up to a furious boil. The amazing Grubinger made it all sound like one big improvisation. Gaffigan supplied a remarkably tight accompaniment, and I especially liked the spontaneity with which soloist and orchestra traded whiplash licks.
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, 26/07/2012
Dorman says Frozen in Time refers to imaginary snapshots of the earth’s geological development from prehistoric times to the present day.
Dorman, a rising young Israeli composer, scored this three-movement work for full orchestra and 23 different percussion instruments, principally marimba and vibraphone. All 23 of which Grubinger played with breathtaking mastery.
The audience got so wound up it applauded after every movement, and kept doing it in the second half.
John Heuertz, Kansas City Star, 01/05/2011
They gave the Swiss premiere of an extrovert, noisy percussion concerto, Frozen in Time, by the Israeli composer Avner Dorman (b. 1975), with Martin Grubinger, Austria's answer to Evelyn Glennie but with shoes on, as virtuosic, athletic soloist. The title refers to land masses, geological phenomena and "the era of globalisation". You get the drift. Cow bells, gamelan and jazzy grooves conjoined Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia and grunge rock.... Dorman's piece is a playful, acrobatic concert showpiece, not a place to find grit.
Fiona Maddocks , The Guardian , 22/08/2010
The real firecracker – and one that went off in all directions – was the Dorman Percussion Concerto.
The Israeli-American Avner Dorman, born in 1975, was only known to me through a Naxos release of his piano music that I found “damn good” two years ago. Last season his Variations Without a Theme were premiered with the Nashville Orchestra (conducted by the secretly-superb Asher Fisch). Frozen in Time was commissioned by the young Austrian percussion wizard Martin Grubinger who premiered the work just two months ago in Hamburg and now presented it in Munich.
Grubinger was the very image of a little boy who, with unbridled joy and enthusiasm, red cheeks and a shock of obstinate blond hair, got to work on his noise-toy that had been built around him on all four sides like a little play castle. In three movements he charmed the dead-serious audience to appreciate and enjoy the humor and exhilaration of the concerto. “Indoafrica”, the first movement, is dominated by wooden sounds and organic shapes, and emphasized the marimba skills of Grubinger, the youngest finalist of the 2nd World Marimba Competition in Okaya (winner was MSU professor Gwendolyn Burgett Thrasher).
“Eurasia” is of a northern, metallic character. Extraordinary delicate and melodic moments, downright pretty (Mozart, by the composer’s own admission, never far away), and making much use of small Tibetan bells. Meditative parts with a prominent solo violin and more metallic plink dominate. The mechanical character of “The Americas” moves away from the multi-cultural ethnic and possibly ancient sounds that may well be “frozen in time” and arrives straight in the urban landscapes of America. Those who wish can hear tango and Afro-Cuban Jazz here – I heard reminders of Antheil and Varèse.
Jens F. Laurson, ionarts.com, 03/02/2008
“In his concert for percussion and orchestra, 32-year-old Israeli Avner Dorman definitely doesn’t tend toward modesty. Each of the three movements from Frozen in Time depicts one of the three land masses that emerged from the primordial continent Pangaea; “Indo-Africa”, “Eurasia” and “The Americas” he names them. Two quick, crazy, energetically composed main themes (“corner movements”) reflect the diverse music of these broadly stretched territories and frame a quiet, slow one. It is, however, everything but mellow even where it alludes to Mozart-like Sicilian rhythms. Because even if Martin Grubinger, for whom the concerto was written, switches in a crazily agile, wizard-like manner between two dozen instruments, he concentrates his efforts on the metallophone here.
In the finale, you get the feeling that someone wrapped the excessive dance rhythms from Leonard Bernstein’s “Westside Story”, sharpened again, in a new robe: the perfect image of the American melting pot.”
Sueddeutsche Zeitung, , 26/01/2008
"The “classic” division of the work into three parts, does not disappoint the demand for contemporary at all. Instead it amuses due to the fact that here the familiar concerto form is filled with vibrant, up-to-date material that not only keeps the soloist on the go, but the orchestra quite busy as well. It is a successful piece because the head stays in the clouds, but the feet are firmly anchored to the ground."
Laszlo Molnar , KlassikInfo.de, 25/01/2008