One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger



Aaron Jay KERNIS (b. 1960 )
Symphony No. 2 (1991) [25:51]
Musica Celestis for string orchestra (1991) [12:27]
Invisible Mosaic III (1988) [16:46]
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Hugh Wolff
rec. Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK, 14-15 May 1995. DDD
licensed from Decca - first released in 1997 as Argo 448 900-2ZH
PHOENIX PHCD160 [55:04]

Kernis's Second Symphony seethes and bellows, seemingly driven by the Furies. Thomas May's extremely helpful booklet notes relate this work to the Corigliano First Symphony. The language will be familiar if you know the 1960s symphonies of Schuman and Bernstein. Be warned though, across the movements (Alarm; Air/Ground; Barricade) only the second lets go of the cherished and constantly refuelled anger. That second movement broods and consoles and is most beautifully and naturally paced. It has about it something of Barber's Adagio in its tender DNA. It is a most moving discovery and one I urge you to share. High violins sing in slow bleak paeans in Barricade only to be joined by emphatically discordant protesting brass and percussion. It rises at 5:23 to a rhetorical plateau of sustained protest and sorrow slightly redolent of Shostakovich at his most harrowingly intense. It is topped off by a gong-sustained tsunami of sound.

It is a relief after such vehement and splenetic music to encounter Kernis's most famous piece. This is the middle movement of his First String Quartet transcribed by the composer for full string orchestra. I imply no sameness but certainly anyone who already enjoys Pärt's Cantus or Barber's Adagio (also the central movement of a string quartet) needs to seek this out. This writing is gentle, yielding, supplicatory and emphatic yet never hectoring. The swelling forte blows at 5:15 are extremely moving inducing a real frisson.

Lastly there is the catastrophic and chasmal fury of Invisible Mosaic III. Pumping iterative Stravinskian writing links with seismic upheavals from the percussion and a manichean whiplash that recalls Ligeti, Henze (Wreck of the Medusa) and Mennin (Piano Concerto). The grandeur, deeply-packed colour and orchestrational brilliance is memorable. There is a raucous finale of heroic uproar - a strange fusion of Bruckner (Eighth Symphony) and Copland (Third Symphony).

A fine collection . In fact the place to start your Kernis collection.

Rob Barnett



We are currently offering in excess of 50,400 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.