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Friday, June 26, 2020

Aaron Jay Kernis, Color Wheel, Symphony No. 4 "Chromelodeon," Nashville Symphony, Giancarlo Guerrero

I've gladly covered the music of Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960) on these pages (type his name in the search box for additional reviews), yet nonetheless hearing the new one by Gian Carlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony (Naxos 8.559838) is bringing a specially renewed sense of the bliss of orchestral High Modernity. Specifically this album brings to us the single movement Color Wheel (2001) and the multi-movement Symphony No. 4 "Chromelodeon"  (2018).

There is a commanding sense of orchestral color that is matched by an ever-burgeoning inventive continuousness in both works. Variational considerations mark both works nicely, as does a sure sense of balance and poise.

"Color Wheel" gives us twenty-some-odd minutes of brightly shimmering concerted dazzle and depth for orchestra. It bursts forward like a rapidly soaring bird. The music has endless energy and expanded harmonic declamation one gladly surrenders to with a sense of surprising inevitability. Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony play this music like they were born to it.

The "Chromelodeon" Symphony traverses three poetic mood movements, "Out of Silence" searching, exploring, questioning, "Thorn Rose. Weep Freedom (After Handel)" delightfully melancholy and rethought, and "Fanfare Chromelodia" mysterious, dramatic, brooding, then mercuric. It is masterful fare, brilliantly expansive, in the advanced Modernist tradition yet independently expressive of an original sensibility. You might sense a poetic affinity with Ives and Messiaen, but not in any imitative way. It is that good.

Anyone who loves music that is "ahead" in the most interesting senses will find in this volume a source of considerable interest. Kernis deserves your attention, especially this one! Highly recommended.

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