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Kernis: Colored Field, Still Movement With Hymn / Neale

Release Date: 02/13/1996 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 448174   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Aaron Jay Kernis
Performer:  Julie Ann GiacobassiChristopher O'RileyCarter BreyPamela Frank,   ... 
Conductor:  Alistair Neale
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Post-modern in its raiding of musical archetypes and pre-modern in its desire to communicate on a large scale, tempered by the composer's breathtaking ear for orchestral sonority.

Kernis’s teacher was John Adams but his own blend of the overtly eclectic with the overtly emotional makes him sound more like an American James MacMillan. Like his mentor, Kernis seems to have moved away from the upbeat minimalism of the 1980s into darker, or at least piebald, stylistic zones. While the first piece on this disc has a portentous programme, its music is by no means difficult to grasp.

Colored field is a concerto for cor anglais and orchestra which deals with big themes. Mark Swed’s notes explain how when the
Read more composer visited the Nazi death camps he noticed “the child of a Brooklyn family sitting and chewing blades of grass from soil once blood-soaked. This idea that something overwhelming exists underneath all we perceive on the surface was to lead to a more abstract musical imagery, that of a facade dropping away and of an ominous wind blowing through the score.”

Whether a cor anglais concerto of the 1990s can hope to live up to this remit is for you to judge. I’m not sure that it does or could or should. That said, one can imagine Colored field making a considerable impact in concert. It is shamelessly post-modern in its raiding of musical archetypes and strongly pre-modern in its desire to communicate on a large scale. Kernis’s confidence is such that he can spin an effortless melodic line for his soloist, underpin it with Sibelian strings and not feel embarrassed at provoking the critics with a Swan of Birkenau. When his woodwind chatter, they do so in a Stravinskian Rite. The second movement is a motoric scherzo, overtly Bernsteinish but still parading the undigested influences of Stravinsky and Bartok. There follows a somewhat religioso finale, fusing the hard rhetoric of early Copland with Gorecki or Kancheli. Kernis even quotes the main motif of Lutoslawski’s Third Symphony at one point. (Why? Because the camps were in Poland? Kernis uses other people’s music the way Sondheim uses rhyme – he can’t seem to stop himself.) The glimpse of Eden just after the cadenza is predictably cinematic. Perhaps there can be no ‘intellectual’ consistency in such music. And yet all of it works thanks to the composer’s breathtaking ear for orchestral sonority.

How to sum up? Kernis may not be a composer of startling originality – he himself has said that he regards ‘the vision’ as more important than the specificity of the musical language through which it finds expression – but his exceptional gifts seem certain to win him an international audience. This is the second Argo disc to be devoted solely to his work and it reflects the high standards of the label’s American music series.

-- Gramophone [11/1996]
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Works on This Recording

Colored Field by Aaron Jay Kernis
Performer:  Julie Ann Giacobassi (English Horn)
Conductor:  Alistair Neale
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/14/1994 
Venue:  Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco 
Length: 41 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Still Movement with Hymn by Aaron Jay Kernis
Performer:  Christopher O'Riley (Piano), Carter Brey (Cello), Pamela Frank (Violin),
Paul Neubauer (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1995 
Venue:  Gould Auditorium, Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood 
Length: 29 Minutes 37 Secs. 

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