AARON JAY KERNIS (b.1960): Symphony No. 4 “Chromelodeon”, Color Wheel.
Catalogue Number: 06V062
Description: Kernis' new (2018) Symphony is a striking and powerful work, which seems to mark something of a new departure, or at least a large evolutionary step, for the composer. Always notable for his approachable brand of modern extended tonality, in this work he explores stormier and more threatening harmonic territory, though the symphony's very Romantic 'darkness to light' trajectory significantly embraces tonality as its triumphant goal. The title suggests chromaticism and saturated color, and the uneasy opening movement 'Out of Silence' is turbulent and densely chromatic, beginning quietly in glowing muted colors but soon increasing in density and activity, suggesting titanic struggle and unrelieved tension. The movement dies out in eerie whispers. The second movement begins with the overbearing blast of a brutal chorale, but this immediately subsides into rich string textures and wispy winds, and then the movement proper begins with a Handelian theme played in 'consort of viols' style which is then the subject of a series of variations in which chromatic embellishments fight with, but fail to subdue, the theme's identity. A long variation in warm string textures is abruptly challenged by the chorale material and after a brief skirmish the movement collapses in broken, distorted fragments. The finale opens with a ringing brass summons, and then alternating exuberant, brash, increasingly ecstatic fanfares and propulsive motoric mechanisms speed the movement toward a triumphant conclusion. Color Wheel was commissioned for The Philadelphia Orchestra’s opening concerts in its new hall in 2001, and is appropriately celebratory and virtuosic. A 20-minute 'concerto for orchestra', the work features the sections of the orchestra alone and in lively dialogue, in episodes of propulsive energy, scherzando playfulness (one of which has a bit of jazz thrown in for good measure) and full-blooded passion. With none of the tormented dramatic angst of the symphony, and far more harmonically stable, it nevertheless possesses a rich sense of dramaturgy of its own, as well as ample compositional and instrumental virtuosity. Nashville Symphony; Giancarlo Guerrero.