Home Culture Arts & Entertainment Azrieli Prize-winning music premieres at gala concert

Azrieli Prize-winning music premieres at gala concert

Maestro Yoav Talmi

The world premiere of works by the two winners of the 2018 Azrieli Music Prizes will be presented at a gala concert at the Maison symphonique de Montréal on Oct. 15.

“Inventive orchestral colour and virtuosic flair” characterize Israeli-born composer Avner Dorman’s Nigunim for violin and orchestra, while Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy explores a wealth of Sephardic music in her En el escuro es todo uno (In the Darkness All is One), a double concerto for harp and cello. Maestro Yoav Talmi of Israel conducts an expanded McGill Chamber Orchestra (MCO) for this varied program, which includes two Hebrew songs arranged especially for soprano Sharon Azrieli and German composer Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 (Italian).

Dorman and Murphy were the winners of the second biennial competition run by the Azrieli Music Prizes, which encourages the creation, performance and celebration of new orchestral Jewish music by anyone, regardless of religion.

Every two years, two deserving composers each receive a prize package that includes a $50,000 cash award and a commercial recording of their music, supported by a promotional campaign.

The inaugural Azrieli Music Prizes were awarded in 2016 to Canadian composer Brian Current for his work, The Seven Heavenly Halls, and to Polish-American composer Wlad Marhulets for his Klezmer Clarinet Concerto. Both pieces were recorded by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and have since been performed in Canada and in Europe.

Dorman now lives in Gettysburg, Pa. His works are performed regularly around the world. Dorman’s career was launched when he became the youngest composer to win Israel’s prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for his Ellef Symphony.

His Nigunim for violin and orchestra, which was expanded and revised from its original version for violin and piano, explores the music of various Jewish traditions from around the world.

“The diversity and wealth of musical traditions I discovered astounded me,” said Dorman, “ranging from North African cantillation, to Central Asian wedding music, and from Balkan rhythms, to ancient prayers.”

In selecting Nigunim for the prize, jury member and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis said that, “Dorman’s music is marked by soulful expression joined to rich, inventive orchestral colour and virtuosic flair.”

Acclaimed Canadian-born violinist Lara St. John is soloist.

Murphy, who’s based in Ottawa and was the winner of the 2018 Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music, is one of this country’s leading composers. Her music has been described as “imaginative and expressive” by the National Post and “striking … full of brilliant tours” by the Globe and Mail.

Her new work, En el escuro es todo uno, has been cited for its innovative exploration of Sephardic music and how it impacted other cultures, as the Jewish Diaspora settled in Morocco, Tunisia and parts of Europe. The work integrates Ladino songs and melodic ornamentation.

The soloists include harpist Erica Goodman and Rachel Mercer, the principal cellist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

Talmi’s distinguished career has taken him to podiums across the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, New Zealand and Israel.

In addition to his tenure as artistic director of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, Talmi has held posts with the Hamburg Symphony and the San Diego Symphony, among others. He was the music director of the Israel Chamber Orchestra, as well the New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv.

MCO, which is marking its 79th year as a professional ensemble, has toured widely, presenting concerts in 17 countries on five continents, and records extensively.


Two public pre-concert events are scheduled, as well as workshops and master classes with the artists.

On Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m., Arte Musica, in collaboration with the Azrieli Foundation, presents Kelly-Marie Murphy: Sur les pas de la lune at Salle Bourgie. The program, which is curated by Murphy, showcases some of her own compositions. Tickets are available at sallebourgie.com.

On Oct. 10 at 6 p.m., the McCord Museum, in collaboration with the Azrieli Foundation and KlezKanada, presents “A Conversation with the Winners of the 2018 Azrieli Music Prizes.” Judah Cohen, associate professor of musicology and Jewish studies at Indiana University, moderates a discussion with Dorman and Murphy about the creative process behind their pieces.

The event is free of charge and will feature excerpts from the traditional Jewish music that inspired the works, as well as examples of their personal musical style, performed by violinist Marc Djokic and others.


Tickets to the Oct. 15 concert, which begins at 8 p.m., are available in person at the Place des Arts box office, by calling 514-842-2112, or 1-866-842-2112, or by visiting placedesarts.com.

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