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In the Salon: Aaron Kernis
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 11/18/2010 at Symphony Space.

A celebratory evening of music intersperses Pulitzer prize-winning composer Aaron Kernis's chamber works with world-premiere pieces written in honor of his birthday.

Performers include the award-winning Contrasts Ensemble, including Ayako Oshima, clarinet; Sophie Shao, cello; Evelyne Luest, piano, and Nurit Pacht, violin, as well as cellist Joshua Roman and violinist Wendy Sharp.

Includes an in-depth discussion with Kernis and the other composers.




from Two Movements (with Bells) (2007)

Aaron Jay Kernis

I. Poco Sostenuto, Presto


Nurit Pacht, violin

Evelyne Luest, piano


A Dance of Life (2010) New York premiere

Aaron Jay Kernis


Wendy Sharp, violin


50 Measures for Aaron (2009) world premiere

Lisa Bielawa

undanceable (2010) world premiere

David Lang


Sonata Humana (1991, arranged 2009)

Derek Bermel

II. ‘somewhere’



50 Fugue, v7 (2009) world premiere

Neil Rolnick

Dixie Twang (2009) world premiere

Dan Visconti


Cinnamon Cart with Hymn (2010) for cello, piano, and with all the guests standing in as a choir

Michael Gatonska


Joshua Roman, cello

Evelyne Luest, piano


Trio in Red (2001)

Aaron Jay Kernis

I. Orange Circle, Yellow Line

II. Red Whirl


Ayako Oshima, clarinets

Sophie Shao, cello

Evelyne Luest, piano


+ About the Artists

Aaron Jay Kernis, winner of the coveted 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and one of the youngest composers to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, is among the most esteemed musical figures of his generation. He has been commissioned by soprano Renee Fleming, violinists Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank, and James Ehnes, by the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and the Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestras. Recent commissions include a choral symphony for Seattle Symphony, a trumpet concerto for Philip Smith, the New York Philharmonic and the Big Ten Band Association, a “New Brandenburg” for Orpheus, and a work for eight blackbird. His music is published exclusively by Associated Music Publishers (G. Schirmer).From 1998 to 2009 Kernis served as New Music Advisor to the Minnesota Orchestra and continues as Director of their Composer Institute. He is on the composition faculty of Yale School of Music.

Lisa Bielawa is a Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. This past season, her works, including In medias res commissioned by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, have been premiered across the United States. Her Chance Encounter, a piece comprising songs and arias constructed of speech overheard in transient public spaces, has been performed at the Whitney Museum, and in Rome, Venice, and Vancouver.

David Lang is a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Music for the little match girl passion, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the vocal ensemble Theater of Voices. The commercial recording of the piece on Harmonia Mundi won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Lang is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s Bang on a Can festival.

Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel is currently serving as Artist-in-Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, Composer-in-Residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Creative Adviser to the American Composers Orchestra. Bermel has received commissions from major ensembles throughout the U.S. and overseas, collaborating with Wynton Marsalis, Midori, John Adams, Paquito D’Rivera, Philip Glass, Gustavo Dudamel, and Stephen Sondheim.

Since he moved to New York City in 2002, Neil Rolnick’s music has been receiving wide recognition and numerous performances in the U.S. and abroad. A pioneer in the use of computers in performance, Rolnick has included unexpected and unusual combinations of materials and media in his music. Rolnick teaches at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he was founding director of the iEAR Studios.

Dan Visconti’s music has been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, Minnesota Orchestra, Albany Symphony, Da Capo Chamber Players, and Berlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble. In addition to the Berlin Prize, the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, and the Cleveland Arts Prize, Visconti has been a recipient of grants from the Naumburg Foundation, Fromm Foundation, Meet the Composer, National Endowment for the Arts, and Chamber Music America.

Michael Gatonska’s music has been performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, and Pacific Symphony. He has received fellowship and grant awards from the Kosciuszko Foundation, ASCAP, American Music Center, Meet the Composer, and American Composers Forum. His music has been recorded on the Albany Records and Major Who labels.About the Performers

Violinist Nurit Pacht has performed at London’s Wigmore Hall and Vienna’s Musikverein. She toured as soloist with the Israeli Chamber Orchestra and was featured with the Houston and Pacific Symphonies. Pacht has performed in collaboration with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and in recitals with Philip Glass. Pacht serves as artistic director of the “Alliance Players.”

Pianist Evelyne Luest is an accomplished soloist and chamber musician and has performed in Europe, South America, Asia, and the US. She won the Artists International Competition as well as many awards with the Contrasts Quartet. Luest has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds, and on the St. Paul Sunday National Radio Show.

Violinist Wendy Sharp performs frequently as a recitalist and a chamber musician. In demand as a teacher and chamber music coach, she is on the faculties of the Yale School of Music and California Summer Music. For nearly a decade, she was the first violinist and a founding member of the highly acclaimed Franciscan String Quartet. Sharp is currently the Director of Chamber Music at the Yale School of Music.

Dubbed a “Classical Rock Star,” cellist Joshua Roman has earned a reputation for performing a wide range of repertoire. Before embarking on a solo career, he wasprincipal cellist of the Seattle Symphony, a position he won at the age of 22. Last season’s engagements included concerto performances with the Albany, Arkansas, Santa Barbara, and Oklahoma’s Signature Symphonies. He has also performed with the Symphonies of Seattle, Edmonton, Quad City, Spokane, and Stamford.

Clarinetist Ayako Oshima has won the Japan Music Competition, the Winds and Percussion Competition in Japan, and the International Jeunesses Musicales Competition and Golden Harp Award in Belgrade. Oshima received training in France, Toho School of Music, and the Eastman School of Music. She is on the faculties of the Julliard School and SUNY Purchase, and is director of the Kitakaruizawa Music Seminar in Japan.

Cellist Sophie Shao received the Avery Fisher Career Grant at age nineteen, and has since performed throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. She is a winner of top prizes at the Rostropovich and Tchaikovsky Competitions. Highlights of this season include opening night of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s season and performances with André Watts and Trio Cavatina. Shao recently collaborated with Howard Shore on his score for The Betrayal.

+ About the Music


Two Movements (with Bells) is a memory piece in honor of my father, Frank Kernis, who passed away in 2004. His favorite music was jazz and American popular song of the 40’s and 50’s. The first movement is filled with restless, often uneasy lines and silences, which often break into wild figurations and speeds, with improvisation-like passages. Bell sounds are not used explicitly, but I was hearing them in my head while writing the work, so hints of bells should color how the performers approach the works’ sound world.

—Aaron Jay Kernis

A Dance of Life (painting - Edvard Munch 1900)

I chose to focus on the emotional turbulence at the core of Edvard Munch’s rich and ghostly painting of this title, pairing contrasts of chromatic whirling and stillness which surge upward from wispy strands of melody to extremes of expression and speed. The piece was premiered by violinist Henning Kraggerud alongside the Munch painting at the Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum in Tønsberg, Sweden.

—Aaron Jay Kernis

Trio in Red

While composing this piece I saw various shades of red in my mind, not just the color but also the colloquial expression that refers to being in a state of controlled rage (before it becomes uncontrollable). The moods of the Orange Circle, Yellow Line movement reflect the more modest shades and moods that the combinations of those colors create. For the most part it is about a long melodic and structural line. Red Whirl is a dance movement of unrelenting motion, a danse macabre influenced by the whirling of fast klezmer music.

—Aaron Jay Kernis.

50 Measures for Aaron

These 50 measures are in 5/4 time, and one performer counts each measure number aloud. I found myself thinking about what numbers mean to us—beats, measures, ages, years. I composed what could be heard as a life journey for Aaron, a journey that is completely fictitious, but in keeping with his rich musical spirit. Happy Birthday Aaron!

—Lisa Bielawa


Happy Birthday Aaron! Aaron and I have been friends since we met at Yale in 1981. In honor of his piece 100 Greatest Dance Hits, I decided to write for him a dance hit of my own. Well, not really a dance, and not really a hit. My piece undanceable starts as a kind of tango but turns out to be just a little too unreliable for its own good.

—David Lang

Sonata Humana

I wrote Sonata Humana in 1991, after studying orchestration and ethnomusicology in Israel. A bass clarinetist friend had requested a piece from me, and upon viewing the score declared it “unplayable.” He was correct, until it was premiered four years later by Robert Tuttle and Lynn Kompass. When Evelyne and Joshua were soliciting pieces for Aaron’s birthday, I put their technical skills to the test by re-imagining the work for cello and piano. I think of this movement as a tribute to the lyricism and harmonic sophistication that make Aaron’s work so attractive and profound. Happy 50th Aaron!

—Derek Bermel

50 Fugue, v7

Who writes fugues anymore? Recently, I’ve found myself returning to my teenage years studying counterpoint. At the time, it seemed like a dry mathematical puzzle. But coming back to it a half century later, what had seemed like strict rules now appear as a flexible form to help shape my musical thoughts. So happy birthday Aaron! I hope that your second half century will contain compelling and lively threads, woven together to make a beautiful cloth.

—Neil Rolnick

Dixie Twang

As I began to sketch out a piece for Aaron’s 50th birthday I had just returned home to Arlington, VA after a year in Berlin. During my first few weeks back just south of the Mason Dixon line, my auditory impressions became flooded with the sound of American diction and the twang and drawl of Southern dialect in particular. What emerged is a short “postcard” addressed to Aaron from far south of Manhattan, replete with the rollicking chatter of twangy speech-rhythms.

—Dan Visconti

Cinnamon Cart with Hymn

I was asked to compose a work with a duration of one minute for Aaron’s birthday. In Cinnamon Cart with Hymn, there is a cello and piano introduction, followed by a coda which asks the audience to join in with the instrumentalists and sing a short hymn that I composed for this special occasion.

—Michael Gatonska



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