Aaron Jay Kernis: Color Wheel. © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

Fascinatingly Exuberant and Bold

GERALD FENECH explores the music of American composer Aaron Jay Kernis

'Giancarlo Guerrero and his Nashville Symphony are ardent advocates of the composer ...'


Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award Winner Aaron Jay Kernis (born 1960) is one of America's most performed composers, and although his music is a challenge to mind and ears, it is all the same fascinatingly exuberant and bold. The two works on this recording share much in common from the virtuosic, percussion-rich approach to orchestral writing to the fundamental use of variation as a unifying and essential creative compositional approach.

Color Wheel (2001) was written especially for the Philadelphia Orchestra's opening concerts in Verizon Hall and for the Orchestra's centennial. It was premiered at the grand opening of that hall with former music director Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting. The work is influenced by two visual elements and although it has some ecstatic moments, it is full of tension, continuous energy and drive, just like the color wheels (tools) used by artists and designers that teach color relationships by organising colors in a circle so you can visualise how they relate to each other.

Listen — Aaron Jay Kernis: Color Wheel
(track 1, 4:15-5:15) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The Fourth Symphony, ‘Chromelodeon', is a very recent piece and was commissioned by the New England Conservatory of Music on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of its founding in 2018. Created out of musical elements, not images or stories, the work explores the coexistence of opposing musical forces to powerful, pensive and, very often, touching effect.

Listen — Aaron Jay Kernis: Fanfare Chromelodeon (Symphony No 4, ‘Chromelodeon')
(track 4, 0:00-0:56) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Giancarlo Guerrero and his Nashville Symphony are ardent advocates of the composer, but this is music well off the beaten track, and for those who want to experiment I would advise a cautious approach. Otherwise, modern music lovers would do well to add this album to their collection. Notes (technically high brow) and sonics are first rate.

Copyright © 2 August 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta






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