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Burton Beerman: Tikvah

Beerman / Markowicz / Lewis / Brown
Release Date: 11/12/2013 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1448   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Burton Beerman
Performer:  Ella Lewis
Conductor:  Uzee Brown Jr.
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEERMAN Tikvah Cygnus Ens ALBANY 1448 (76:47)

Burton Beerman’s Tikvah is a “Chamber Oratorio.” Beerman is distinguished artist professor at Bowling Green State University. The 2006 world premiere of this piece included video projections, apparently, but subsequent performances have not, and obviously this sound-only disc presents just the score itself.

It was exposure to the writings of Holocaust survivor Philip Read more Markowicz that inspired Tikvah (the word itself means “hope”). Cantor Andrea Rae Markowicz, who is soprano soloist here, is Philip Markowicz’s granddaughter. The work’s focus is on hope, while pondering core issues of existence and survival. Although profoundly affected by the music of the synagogue in his early years, Beerman actually only activated its presence in his music on meeting Philip Markowicz (who is also a Torah scholar).

The chorus’s role is by no means pervasive, but remains vital not least because it actually opens the piece (accompanied by piano) and by its placement at strategic points; it also closes the work, beautifully. The writing is skilful, the result impassioned and, in the case of the opening movement, leads easily and inevitably to the final choral cries of “freedom.” The music moves on to an “Overture” for saxophone quartet. The sax writing is complex; long, snaking lines seemingly falling over one another before a lonely solo saxophone is left to intone the “Klezmer” movement.

The combination of soprano singer, narrator, and saxophones is particularly interesting in the third movement, wherein the saxophones burble around contentedly in the background. Andrea Markowicz is a skilled performer, seemingly encountering no problems with the disjunct nature of the line here and elsewhere (particularly in the exposed, voice and saxophone only fourth movement). Both Andrea Markowicz and the solo saxophone of the seventh movement, which also includes narrator, provide fluid, confident delivery of the difficult yet clearly rewarding writing. The poignant nature of the texts is ably communicated both by composer and performers.

The various combinations of saxophones (with or without voice) seem to represent an exploratory journey in itself for the composer. Effectively the work is a celebration of life itself. Beautifully recorded, this is a most rewarding release.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Tikvah, chamber oratorio for chorus, saxophone quartet & piano by Burton Beerman
Performer:  Ella Lewis (Piano)
Conductor:  Uzee Brown Jr.
Period: Contemporary 
Length: 73 Minutes 11 Secs. 

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