Aaron Jay Kernis, one of the youngest composers ever to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, has become among the most esteemed musical figures of his generation. Each of Kernis' works bears the unmistakable stamp of a wildly fertile musical imagination and a distinctive voice forged out of the wide-ranging musical languages of the 1980s and 1990s. His music bursts with rich poetic imagery, brilliant instrumental color, distinctive musical wit, and infectious exuberance. His work is as likely to be inspired by the horrors of the Persian Gulf War (as in the much-talked about Second Symphony) as the love poems of Anna Swir (Love Scenes), the earthy rhythms of Salsa (100 Greatest Dance Hits) as the antics of a child (Before Sleep and Dreams), the surrealism of Gertrude Stein (Fragments of Gertrude Stein) or the complexities and high-craftsmanship of Italian mosaics (Invisible Mosaic III).
His music figures prominently on orchestral, chamber, and recital programs around the world. He has already written works for many of America's foremost musical institutions, including New Era Dance, commissioned for the 150th Anniversary of the New York Philharmonic and recorded by the Baltimore Symphony; Still Movement with Hymn, a piano quartet commissioned by American Public Radio for Christopher O'Riley, Pamela Frank, Paul Neubauer, and Carter Brey; Colored Field, an English horn concerto for Julie Giacobassi and the San Francisco Symphony; Goblin Market for narrator and ensemble, on a text by Christina Rossetti, for the Birmingham [England] New Music Group; Air for violinist Joshua Bell; Ecstatic Meditations for the Birmingham Bach Choir and the Plymouth Music Series; Lament and Prayer, a work for violin and string orchestra for Pamela Frank and the Minnesota Orchestra; and Double Concerto for Violin, Guitar, and Chamber Orchestra, commissioned by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra for Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Sharon Isbin.
Mr. Kernis helps to usher in the next century with a momentous choral symphony for the Millennium commissioned by the Disney Company. Other upcoming commissions include works for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and a song cycle for Renee Fleming in two versions - one for voice and piano to be premiered on Lincoln Center's Great Performers Series and the other with orchestra to be premiered with the Minnesota Orchestra.
Mr. Kernis is one of the most honored young American composers. In addition to the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for his String Quartet No. 2 (musica instrumentalis), his many awards have included the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize, an NEA grant, a Bearns Prize, a New York Foundation for the Arts Award, and three BMI Student Composer Awards. Aaron Jay Kernis was born in Philadelphia on January 15, 1960. He began his musical studies on the violin; at age 12 he began teaching himself piano, and, in the following year, composition. He continued his studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of music, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Yale School of Music, working with composers as diverse as John Adams, Charles Wuorinen, and Jacob Druckman. Kernis received national acclaim for his first orchestral work, Dream of the Morning Sky, premiered by the New York Philharmonic at the 1983 Horizons Festival.