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Aaron Jay Kernis

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Newly Drawn Sky (2005),
AMP and AJK Music
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
17 Minutes
Programme Note
Aaron Jay Kernis Newly Drawn Sky (2005),

1 July 2005
Ravinia Festival
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/James Conlon
Highland Park, IL

Composer Note:

Newly Drawn Sky is a lyrical, reflective piece for orchestra, a reminiscence of the first summer night by the ocean spent with my young twins (who were six months old when the work's initial inspiration came to me), and of the changing colors of the summer sky at dusk. While the work is not programmatic or specifically descriptive, it reflects a constancy of change and flux musically and personally.

The piece begins with chromatically shifting three-note chords in the foreground that move upwards through the strings, then enlarge into the horns and winds as a background to a long, singing line in the violas. These chords and their shifts between diatonic and chromatic voice-leading are a fundamental element in the formation of the work.

Short bursts of quick, scherzando music which grow larger in orchestration alternate with continuations of the increasingly expressionistic singing melodic line and rhythmically punctuated brass and percussion outbursts. A chaotic culmination leads to a return of open fifths (the first notes of the piece) in the full orchestra and metal percussion.

The calm middle section of the work features serene melodic writing in the winds and solo trumpet, underpinned by undulating, slow moving harmonies in the strings. The opening lyrical line returns in the strings and leads upwards to a brief interruption, a transformation of the scherzo-like music which quickly vanishes into a full return of the opening music which grows into a vast landscape of sound in the entire orchestra, leading upwards once again to a short, intense climax. Newly Drawn Sky closes with a simple, consonant coda, which gradually and lyrically calms the memory of tensions that have surfaced over the course of the work.

Newly Drawn Sky is roughly 16 minutes long. It was premiered by the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival in July, 2005 and was commissioned by Welz Kauffman and the Ravinia Festival in honor of James Conlon's first season as music director.

— Aaron Jay Kernis

  • Ensemble
    Grant Park Orchestra
    Carlos Kalmar
    Cedille Records:
Newly Drawn Sky is the most recently composed of the three pieces on this CD. It is an extended lyrical piece inspired, the composer tells us, by “the changing colors of the summer sky at dusk”. Kernis’ use of the orchestra is inventive, and his music embraces dark clouds, as it were, as well as the lambency of sunset. There is an open- air quality to the music and an appropriate sense of scale.
Glyn Pursglove, Music Web International,20/06/2009
Newly Drawn Sky is one of the composer’s most recent works. Written as a response to the sight of his newborn twins playing at the beach, this meditation on parenthood has a much broader thematic/gestural bandwidth. In its final third, it also reaches a very satisfying climax. Kernis has a gift for building powerful structures out of traditional imitative counterpoint, but often disguised so the actual process isn’t obvious. This work is a case in point (as is also his Second Symphony, where a couple of times I hear fugal sections, driven by what are anything but traditional fugal subjects).
Robert Carl, Fanfare,01/01/2009
Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960) is a composer who has never hesitated to display brilliantly and often flagrantly his predilection for eclectic composition. The world is his compositional oyster, and he has stated many times that "everything" should be included in music, from gripping drama to subtle nuances of the most delicate emotions, humor, tragedy, passion--everything. This well-played and well-recorded CD from Cedille features two premiere recordings and one new recording of his 1989 Symphony in Waves. Newly Drawn Sky is a reflective piece calling to remembrance the first summer night at the ocean spent with the composer's six-months-old twins. It is a highly effective and quite beautiful tone poem (though Kernis might reject that appellation) that presents various aspects of that experience in orchestral guise. This effervescent, sparkling work shows where the composer has come recently (2005), and makes one clamor for more of the same.
Steven Ritter , Audiophile Audition,28/10/2008
There are two premiere recordings on this extremely well-played and recorded disc. The first, 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.
David Hurwitz, Classics Today,29/09/2008
Kernis, at 48, is one of the most successful composers of his generation: oft-performed and recorded and awarded (he won a Pulitzer Prize at an age when many composers are still cursing general neglect), he is also on this disc about as wildly eclectic a traditionalist as you’re likely to find. The pieces receiving premiere recorded performances from Chicago’s splendid, contemporary-minded Grant Park Festival Orchestra are the 2005 Newly Drawn Sky “inspired by a twilight walk on a Long Island Beach” and the 1996 Too Hot Toccata, which is exactly what it sounds like. The Symphony in Waves from 1989 has been superbly recorded before, but it’s one of Kernis’ best and most representative works and probably deserves to be thought of as a contemporary concert hall staple.
Jeff Simon, The Bufffalo News,17/09/2008
...full of brilliant color and melodic ideas…shifting between suspenseful, ominous thunder and light-hearted, scampering winds.
Chicago Sun-Times, ,01/01/0001
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