Mercury News
Richard Scheinin
January 1, 2010

My shot at the best classical recordings of 2009 turns out to be top-heavy with pianists and French composers. Funny how that happens: You begin a process with what seems like scrupulous fairness, sorting through hundreds of discs, aiming for balance, trying to demonstrate one’s wide-openness to the whole musical universe. But somehow, the results wind up reflecting personal preferences, anyway.

Still, don’t run away if you’re a violin maven or a Germanophile. There’s Bach and Schumann here, too. There’s Paganini and Puccini. There’s John Adams of Berkeley and Phil Kline of downtown Manhattan. And there’s a 21st option: Michael Tilson Thomas on DVD.

Derek Bermel: Voices (BMOP/sound 1008)
This composer is an absorber of worlds, drawing on the sighs and moans of jazz or soul; the ornamental inflections that pepper Bulgarian folk songs and Irish ballads; the dancing, buzzing modalisms of the gyil, a West African xylophone. He is a singular transformer of his source materials, a writer of memorable melodies and a virtuoso clarinetist, as well -- that’s Bermel, performing here on his own clarinet concerto, Voices. Gil Rose leads the Boston Modern Orchestra Project throughout this excellent disc, which tours a number of Bermel’s most alluring compositions.