Bermel, who conducted the piece, writes sensitively for strings. The violins pour forth a long-limbed melody of quite stunning beauty. Beauty in motion is perhaps what “Murmurations” is all about. The audience Friday night gave it a standing ovation, a rare gesture for a new work.
— Star Tribune (Minnesota)
Derek Bermel, though best known as a composer, is also a fine clarinetist. His contribution here was a rhythmically fluid, rich-hued account of the Copland Clarinet Concerto, written for Benny Goodman, but with fewer concessions to Goodman’s jazz virtuosity than to his classical bona fides.
— The New York Times
During the first part of Ms. Fang’s work Mr. Bermel leapt, slurred and growled over roiling instrumental textures, jagged rhythms and electronic effects that hissed and jabbered around the hall. Amid the din, you heard constant evidence of Ms. Fang’s inventive palette. The second part, more densely electronic, includes a breathtaking passage that suggests phantom voices lost in a purple-gray Ligetian fog.
— The New York Times
A first rate clarinetist…Brilliant
— The New York Times
Derek Bermel’s Voices, a concerto for clarinet, with the composer playing the solo part brilliantly, was fun, music with brash humor, clever scoring.
— The New York Times
Their rendition was a bit raw, and gave pleasure for that reason. Bermel brought a tangy, Gypsy-like style to his solos in the Adagio, drawing closer to Brahms’s gruff spirit than clarinettists who fetishize a smooth, mellow tone.
— New Yorker
[Bolcom concerto] gave Bermel ample opportunity to demonstrate the beautiful tone the clarinet is possible of producing in the hands of a master....Bermel left little room to doubt his command of the instrument as he easily handled the demanding passages.
— Greensboro News & Record
Bermel’s clarinetistsry has its own tenets; it breaks every rule of classical playing and it stretches the accepted conventions of jazz to the outermost limits…it may inspire a school all of its own.
— American Record Guide
The lush, sassy tones of clarinetist Derek Bermel flowed irresistibly through the “hot” and “cool” landscapes of this work [Bernstein Prelude Fugue and Riffs], culminating in a riotous jam session that recalls the sophisticated swing of Woody Herman and Benny Goodman.
— Newsday
The American composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel recalls the much earlier model of virtuosos such as Rachmaninoff and Kreisler. Bermel’s Theme and Absurdities is a short, dizzying clarinet solo that spins off into fanciful pyrotechnics. The whole thing ends with a note of humor and hope, trailing off with the sunrise opening of Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra.
— Newsday
Voices is a crowd-pleaser that is likely to enter the repertory of every orchestra. Part of the appeal lies in the virtuosity and charisma of the composer, who was soloist. There doesn’t seem to be anything Bermel can’t do with the clarinet; but the appeal also lies in the music, which adds dimensions of wit and intelligence to melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic elements of immediate popular appeal. This is the kind of piece that makes your day.
— Boston Globe