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Aaron Jay Kernis

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Three Flavors (2002)
Work Notes
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Publisher
AJK Music
Category
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
2002
Duration
25 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Piano
Programme Note
Aaron Jay Kernis Three Flavors (2002)
First Performance:
October 19, 2013
Andrew Russo, piano
Albany Symphony
David Alan Miller, conductor
Troy Savings Bank Hall
Troy, NY

Composer Note:
Three Flavors began its life as one of the few (maybe the only at that time) concertos for Toy Piano and Orchestra, written for Margaret Leng Tan and the Singapore Symphony in 2002. Even with amplification, the small instrument was understandably overwhelmed by a large orchestra, and I’d often “toyed” with adapting the piece for grand piano. This new adaptation is receiving its premiere at these concerts.

I am somewhat of a foodie, and when I dine out like to try cuisines and restaurants new to me, without repeating dishes and cooking styles for a while – never the same cuisine in the same week! This concerto is somewhat like tasting three different meals or characters, hence the title. It’s doesn’t try overtly tie all the movements together with related musical ideas, motives or harmonies, but I trust that my own voice can be heard throughout.

The first movement, Ostinato is the most indebted to the clang and odd-overtone structure of the toy piano, and is directly influenced by sounds from Indonesian gamelan. This is apparent in the repetitive motives, modal harmonies and especially with the use of many sorts of metal percussion that complement the solo piano in much of the movement.

Lullaby-Barcarolle has a gentle, limpid quality that relaxes the approach of angular precision in the 1st movement. It was written shortly before my twins were born, and while writing I thought constantly of the soothing, fluid journey that they were taking. Turbulent music flows from the longer opening lullaby, then recedes as the initial music returns in warmer, more emotional tones.

The final movement, Blue Whirl is more distinctly “American” in its playful and edgy qualities – which hint at jazz and “blue” harmonies. A lyrical second section and orchestral tutti precede a solo piano cadenza that moves from wistful to declamatory, before bringing back the opening and developing an increasingly whirling, rhythmically insistent drive. Overall, Three Flavors features the percussion section of the orchestra in a very significant role, nearly making it a concerto for piano, percussion and the rest (which includes electric guitar in the orchestral fabric).

I’m very grateful to Andrew Russo, whose enthusiasm and support enabled this new adaptation of the work to come to fruition, while his virtuosity and flair demanded a total re-conception of the piano part. I’m very happy that this week’s premiere will be released in the future on a recording by Naxos that features three Kernis works (also in different flavors) with Mr. Russo.

— Aaron Jay Kernis

Performances
Reviews
"Timeless tonal-impressionistic composition...Kernis [uses] a vernacular structure with echoes of gamelan, ravines of Debussy, and a feeling torn between the bucolic and dynamic. A virtuosism that competes with the best masters of piano."
Hector Garcia, Musical Routes,11/04/2015
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