The San Francisco Chronicle reviews Derek Bermel: Voices

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The San Francisco Chronicle
Joshua Kosman
March 22, 2009

In listening to this magnificent collection of orchestral pieces by the Brooklyn composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel, it's difficult to know whether to be more knocked out by his stylistic versatility or his technical prowess. I'll settle for both. Bermel's music is intricate, witty, clear-spoken, tender and extraordinarily beautiful. It also covers an amazing amount of ground, from the West African rhythms of Dust Dances to the Bulgarian folk strains of Thracian Echoes to the shimmering harmonic splendor of Elixir. And as a sumptuous finale, there's Voices, an elaborate clarinet concerto mixing free jazz, Irish folk melody and funk. In the hands of a composer less assured, all that globe-trotting would seem like affectation; Bermel makes it an artistic imperative.