Chamber Music Northwest: David Shifrin & Friends features music from four leading American composers — beloved icon Aaron Copland and three contemporary masters: Stephen Harke, Aaaron Jay Kernis, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Here, on the Delos Insider, we want to introduce you to these composers and their works, via Delos’ own liner notes.
Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960) — Trio in Red: for Piano, Clarinet and Cello (2001)
A native of Philadelphia, Aaron Jay Kernis studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and Yale University with composers like John Adams, Morton Subotnick, Charles Wuorinen and Jacob Druckman. He won the Pulitzer Prize at the age of 38 (for his second string quartet, musica instrumentalis), making him one of the prize’s youngest recipients. His works have been commissioned by leading major-metro orchestras and the Aspen Music Festival, and have been written for artist- performers such as Renee Fleming, Joshua Bell and Christopher O’Riley, among others. Known for his versatility, Mr. Kernis composed Garden of Light, a choral symphony, for the Walt Disney Company upon the occasion of the new Millennium. You can hear his music at the ambient-sound installation for the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Among his many distinguished honors and awards, Kernis has received the Diapason d’or Palmares for Best Contemporary Music Disc of the Year (Symphony No. 2, Invisible Mosaic Ill, and musica celestis), two Grammy nominations, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Prix de Rome. In September 1993, he was appointed Composer-in-Residence for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Public Radio, and the American Composers Forum; he returned in 1998 as New Music Advisor to the Minnesota Orchestra.
Mr. Kernis wrote the following about his Trio in Red: “Sometimes while I’m in the process of preparing to compose – taking walks, actively thinking about what I’m about to begin – I see colors. At times the colors are associated with my perception of harmony and the feelings and sensations that specific chords evoke; at other times it’s the qualities of sound I imagine – from the ‘colors’ of instruments, separately or in combination, to the personal qualities that musicians I’m writing for bring to their performances. In this case I was always conscious of writing for these instruments (piano, clarinet and cello) and for these three great musicians (the ones heard here) whose playing I know relatively well. But writing this piece, I saw various shades of red; in fact, the original title of the work was ‘Seeing Red.’
“This not only refers to the color, but also to the colloquial expression that refers to being in a state of controlled rage (before it becomes uncontrollable). The moods of the first movement, ‘Orange Circle, Yellow Line,’ tend to reflect the more modest shades and moods that the combination of those two colors create. It is a mostly lyrical slow movement with occasional bursts of turbulence, but for the most part it is about a long musical and structural line. ‘Red Whirl’ is a dance movement of unrelenting motion, a danse macabre, or dance of death, influenced by the whirling of fast Klezmer music. The work was composed between July 2000 and March 2001.
Trio in Red was generously commissioned by the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts at Michigan State University for The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.”
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