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David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2020

Aaron Jay Kernis is now in his sixtieth year and belongs to that progressive group of North American composers who look towards an innovating use of tonality.

Their aim is to take audiences wedded to ‘traditional’ concert programmes into new evolving sounds, the Fourth Symphony from 2018 among his most recent works. Maybe best to ignore its name, which he explains in the enclosed booklet, and to simply enjoy the new sounds he creates. Those who already know his works will be equally intrigued at the journey he is himself taking, each movement carrying a title, the opening movement emerging ‘Out of Silence’, though you might be puzzled by the name of the following ‘after Handel’, as there is precious little influence here from the distant predecessor. More relevant is the creation of a Fanfare that forms the basis for the short finale. I am still journeying with Kernis, and no doubt we will musically come together again given time. Return to 2001 for Color Wheel, commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra as part of their centennial celebrations. I have here the Kernis I recognise and enjoy, particularly in the array of technicolor sounds. Passing through many moods, often employing orchestral virtuosity that explores every department in depth, the strings providing the bed-rock around which the wheel revolves. It is a sizeable score of some twenty-two minutes, that gives a showpiece for the fine Nashville Symphony and their conductor, Giancarlo Guerrero, the final passage a climax of monumental proportions. The recordings come from 2016 and 2019 but match one another perfectly, the extent of detail in the densely scored passages of Color Wheel is an achievement for the sound team. Those collecting the ‘American Classics’ series will be delighted. © 2020 David’s Review Corner

Records International, June 2020

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. © 2020 Records International Read complete review

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