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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Before Sleep and Dreams (1990)
Air (1995)
Meditation (in memory of John Lennon) (1981)
The Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine (1991)
 Evelyne Luest (piano) Composer (piano - Meditation)
Andrea Schultz (violin) Michael Finckel (cello)
Luest, Finckel, Schultz, Evan Spritzer (narrator and clarinet) - in Four Seasons
PHOENIX PHCD 143  [65.26]
Amazon USA

Kernis's reputation as a post-modernist not just in touch with sweet romanticism but in immersed communion with it is already secure. Whether that reputation will dog him or empower him in years to come remains to be seen. However after hearing various violin sonatas by Benjamin Lees and Leon Kirchner I discovered this music with a sense of relief. It acts as benediction. In the soft Ravelian ambience of Before Sleep and Dreams it is heard unalloyed. In Air (dedicated to Luest, Kernis's wife) a Bergian Lark Ascending (or if not Ascending at least Floating) there are some enriching harmonic collisions. In any event those first six tracks subsist in a dream. That same dream carries over into Meditation with the soft persistence of the piano chords tenderly lifting the cello line in its slow excavation of Lennon's song 'Imagine'. I have my doubts as to whether enough happens in this piece to make it lodge in the memory but this is where Kernis's minimalist attributes are plain to hear.

The Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine is best viewed as a modern echo of Walton's Facade. The accompaniment rejoices in many modernist twitches and jumps interspersed with quotes from Beethoven's Ninth, Bruckner's Fourth and some other lyrical interest. The text is taken from the Futurist Cookbook from the second wave of Futurism in the 1930s. The first section text is taken from Marinetti's original Futurist manifesto (1909). The texts are spoken not sung. The spoken words are a cornucopia of luxuriant impressions rolled with relish by Evan Spritzer.

Kernis is fortunate to be writing at a time when his style caught a following wind in the public. His three Argo discs of orchestral music (Argo 436 287-2ZH; 448 174-2ZH; and 448 900-2ZH) seem to have disappeared without trace along with the whole of the Argo catalogue. I hope that they will reappear. Argo was too good a label to drown unlamented.

This disc is worthy of your attention as an entré to modern classical music. From it you can strike out further towards Silvestrov's Fifth Symphony, Reich, Glass, Vasks and many others. The Futurist Cuisine piece does not quite fit this picture.

The notes are by Kernis. Full texts are provided. The recording is strong and intimate.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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