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Aaron Jay Kernis

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Dreamsongs (2013)
Work Notes
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AJK Music
Soloists and Orchestra
Sub Category
Soloists and Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
22 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Programme Note
Aaron Jay Kernis Dreamsongs (2013)
First performance:
April 20 2013
Joshua Roman, cello
ProMusic Chamber Orchestra
Timothy Russell, conductor
Columbus, OH

Composer Note
While Dreamsongs is a concerto for cello and chamber orchestra, it doesn't take on the forms of older concerti. Rather than the almost ubiquitous three movement layout- Fast-Slow-Fa st-it has only two movements, both of which mix slow and fast with dramatic and lyrical sections. The first, Floating Dreamsongs, is mostly slow and floating and develops as a group of continuously developing variations on the music introduced in its three cellos opening, and first variation with strings, harp and vibraphone. Often the consonant harmonies become spooked and furtive, building into tremulous marimba and vibraphone rolls with large orchestra chords, and, only much later, returns to a mostly peaceful direction.

Much of the second movement, Kora Song, is inspired by music of the African korii, a plucked gourd almost similar in sound to the harp and pizzicato cello combination that opens the movement and is featured often. Few cello pieces concentrate on pizzicato playing as much as this movement. The music frequently changes direction and features a number of cello cadenzas, sometimes with conga drums, but often has a gentle exuberance and is lighter in tone and more energetic than in the opening movement.

Dreamsongs was written for the generous and virtuosic playing of cellist Joshua Roman, who I've known for a number of years and is now my neighbor in New York City. It is dedicated to Joshua and his wife, Mi-Ryung, and also was written in honor of Maestro Timothy Russell 's 34-year tenure as ProMusica Chamber Orchestra's Music Director. It was commissioned by ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus, Ohio, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, The State Auto Group, The Ohio State University, Marty Johnson and John Gerhold, Yuhua Una Tsou and Ken Hunter, and Jack and Zoe Johnstone and The Fund for New Music. Commissioning partners are the Bellingham Festival in Washington State and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, who will perform the work this summer and fall.

— Aaron Jay Kernis

"Dreamsongs, composed by Aaron Jay Kernis and commissioned for Mr. Roman, fact, a dreamscape in all its glory, performed for the first time on the West Coast. Certainly narrative, it balanced harsh, strident, percussive passages with sweet, sonorous cadences and kept the crowd tethered to an electrifying performance on stage...Split into two movements, [the] piece conveyed an all-consuming sense of emotion sometimes discounted in the realm of classical music. It meant something, told a story, through the extensive art of sound. The energy was undeniable, and the score was fantastic in scope."
Lily Olason, Entertainment News NW,06/07/2013
"Roman’s singing tone rang in delicious nuances through the sometimes lushly tonal, sometimes darkly dissonant first movement, Floating Dreamscapes. The orchestra drifted seamlessly between rich full-orchestra passages and moments of intimate chamber music like the gathering and dissipating of clouds. In the second movement, Kora Song, Russell and the musicians journeyed through a dramatic fantasy evoking the plucked timbres and rocking rhythms of west African kora music. Roman’s virtuosic pizzicato passages, threadbare harmonics and soulful incantations were dazzling."
Jennifer Hambrick, The Columbus Dispatch,21/04/2013
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