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Kernis: Symphony In Waves, Newly Drawn Sky, Too Hot Toccata / Kalmar, Grant Park Orchestra

Release Date: 08/12/2008 
Label:  Cedille Records   Catalog #: 105   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Aaron Jay Kernis
Conductor:  Carlos Kalmar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grant Park Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Contemporary orchestral music recordings don't get much better than this. Aaron Jay Kernis was lucky in that the music on which his current reputation rests (including Symphony in Waves) was recorded when it was new, by Argo. It deserved to be. His vibrant eclecticism, a mixture of minimalism, lyrical melody, and tart dissonance, with a touch of popular music and jazz idioms, remains a potent and very appealing recipe, and it has worn well. Behind the flash and dazzle is no mere potpourri of undigested influences, but music of substance and wide emotional range, as these performances attest.

There are two premiere recordings on this extremely well-played and recorded disc. The first,
Read more Newly Drawn Sky (2005), is a mostly lyrical, meditative tone poem populated by some strikingly beautiful ideas and some audible nature imagery. The booklet notes cite Sibelius as an influence, and the comparison is a good one. At nearly 18 minutes the work is quite substantial, and I'm not 100 percent sure that it sustains its length, but repeated listening will tell. Too Hot Toccata (1996) is closer in style to the pop music-spiced pieces, such as New Era Dance, that alerted the concert-going public to Kernis' arrival as a bright new talent. It's a bubbly showpiece, with plenty of virtuoso licks for individual members of the orchestra.

The major work here, receiving its second recording, is Symphony in Waves (1989). Its five movements add up to a very satisfying whole, and this performance has greater impact and tension, particularly in the long but dramatic central slow movement ("Still Movement"), than Gerard Schwarz's Argo recording with the 92nd St. Y Chamber Orchestra. Perhaps it's the (presumably) larger body of strings, or Carlos Kalmar's more dynamic presence on the podium. Either way, the performance is terrific, and brilliantly engineered for maximum impact. I can't stress enough how gratifying it is to see a first-class independent label picking up where the majors left off, and making sure that Kernis' music remains available to be discovered by curious music lovers.

P.S. A very kind reader pointed out a fact that I should have mentioned: Too Hot Toccata is a recasting of the finale of the Double Concerto for Violin and Guitar, which was also recorded by Argo.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphony in Waves by Aaron Jay Kernis
Conductor:  Carlos Kalmar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grant Park Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989; USA 
Length: 39 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Notes: Audio Producer: James Ginsburg. 
Newly Drawn Sky by Aaron Jay Kernis
Conductor:  Carlos Kalmar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grant Park Orchestra
Period: 21st Century 
Written: 2005; USA 
Length: 17 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Notes: Audio Producer: James Ginsburg. 
Too Hot Toccata by Aaron Jay Kernis
Conductor:  Carlos Kalmar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grant Park Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996; USA 
Length: 6 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Notes: Audio Producer: James Ginsburg. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 The Symphony makes it worthwhile February 8, 2013 By James C. (Omaha, NE) See All My Reviews "I bought the disc to have an example of Aaron Jay Kernis's music. The last five tracks on the disc are the Symphony (1989). This music is exciting and interesting; its play and balance are excellent. Too Hot Toccata will sweep you along. It would go well in an outdoor summer program. The liner notes say this about Newly Drawn Sky, but I find the piece to have no core to hold the listener, like fireworks your neighbor shoots off; better engineering might have helped it." Report Abuse
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