Aaron Jay Kernis, one of the youngest composers ever to be awarded the Grawemeyer Award, the Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy nomination, is among the most esteemed musical figures of his generation. Each work of Kernis bears the unmistakable stamp of a wildly fertile imagination forged out of the wide-ranging musical languages of the 1980s and 1990s. His music bursts with rich poetic imagery, brilliant instrumental color, distinctive wit, and infectious exuberance. His work has been inspired by the horrors of the Persian Gulf War (as in the much-talked about Symphony No.2) the love poems of Anna Swir (Love Scenes), the earthy rhythms of Salsa (100 Greatest Dance Hits), the antics of a child (Before Sleep and Dreams), complexities and high-craftsmanship of Italian mosaics (Invisible Mosaic III ).
His music figures prominently on orchestral, chamber, and recital programs around the world. America’s foremost musical institutions have already commissioned his work; including New Era Dance, commissioned for the 150th Anniversary of the New York Philharmonic and recorded by the Baltimore Symphony; Still Movement with Hymn, a piano quartet commissioned by American Public Radio for Christopher O'Riley, Pamela Frank, Paul Neubauer, and Carter Brey; Colored Field, an English horn concerto for Julie Giacobassi and the San Francisco Symphony; Goblin Market for narrator and ensemble, on a text by Christina Rossetti, for the Birmingham [England] New Music Group; Air for violinist Joshua Bell (which earned the composer a Grammy nomination); Ecstatic Meditations for the Plymouth Music Series Ensemble Singers and Choir; Lament and Prayer, a work for violin and string orchestra for Pamela Frank and the Minnesota Orchestra; and Double Concerto for Violin, Guitar, and Orchestra, commissioned by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra for Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Sharon Isbin.
Mr. Kernis helped usher in the new century with his momentous choral symphony for the Millennium - Garden of Light, commissioned by Disney. Recent commissions include works for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Orchestra, a song cycle for Renee Fleming in two versions – one for voice and piano to be premiered on Lincoln Center Great Performers Series and the other to be premiered with the Minnesota Orchestra; and an ambient-sound installation for the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Mr. Kernis is one of the most honored young American composers. In addition to the 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Colored Field, the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for his String Quartet No. 2 (musica instrumentalis), his many awards have included the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize, an NEA grant, a Bearns Prize, a New York Foundation for the Arts Award, and three BMI Student Composer Awards. He has become an especially familiar and much-admired presence in Minnesota Twin Cities; in September 1993, he was appointed Composer-in-Residence for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Public Radio, and the American Composers Forum, and he returned in the fall of 1998 as New Music Advisor to the Minnesota Orchestra, where he still continues in that capacity.
Recordings of the music of Aaron Jay Kernis are available on CRI, Nonesuch, and New Albion, Virgin/EMI, Argo, with which Mr. Kernis now has an exclusive recording contract, has released his Symphony in Waves, with Gerard Schwarz and the New York Chamber Symphony; String Quartet No. 1, performed by the Lark Quartet; New Era Dance, with the Baltimore Symphony; and Colored Field and Still Movement with Hymn with the premiering performers. A widely acclaimed CD with Hugh Wolff conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Mr. Kernis's Symphony No. 2, Invisible Mosaic III, and musica celestis was nominated for a Grammy, and won France's Diapason d'or Palmares for Best Contemporary Music Disc of the Year. Other recordings include an Argo disc of works for the outstanding young violinists Pamela Frank and Joshua Bell (garnering a second Grammy nomination for Kernis, again for Air) with David Zinman and The Minnesota Orchestra and his Double Concerto with guitarist Sharon Isbin, violinist Cho-Liang Lin and Hugh Wolff and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; an Arabesque release of the Lark Quartet in the Pulitzer Prize-winning String Quartet No. 2 (musica instrumentalis) and their second recording of his first quartet; and a Phoenix disc of the Eberli Ensemble in various chamber works, featuring The Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine. His most recent release is a recording of a new versions for cello of Colored Field and Air created for the Norwegian virtuoso Truls Mork and the Minnesota Orchestra with Eiji Oue on EMI/Virgin.
Aaron Jay Kernis was born in Philadelphia on January 15, 1960. He began his musical studies on the violin; at age 12 he began teaching himself piano, and, in the following year, composition. He continued his studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Yale School of Music, working with composers as diverse as John Adams, Charles Wuorinen and Jacob Druckman. Kernis received national acclaim for his first orchestral work, Dream of the Morning Sky, premiered by the New York Philharmonic at the 1983 Horizons Festival. Mr. Kernis's music is published by Hendon Music/Boosey & Hawkes, and by Associated Music Publishers.
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