Aaron Jay Kernis

Photo credit: Richard Bowditch

Grace (2022)

PRIMAVERA IV the heart

from the composer

My cello piece Grace was written to look at the some elements that link the two miraculous paintings of the Primavera project rather than at their contrasts. To look at the lyrical intent both in the dancing poses of the three Graces in the Botticelli and the way that characters connect, almost looping and touching amidst the dark trees in the background of the von Heyl- the continuities. More subtle-y spun out in the music are the allusions to past and present languages, with a choice to weave them together instead of presenting strongly different visions. So much music we hear, of all types and sounds, no matter their century, sounds new and of this moment and my hope is to find a timeless language that holds graceful breathing in it.

My thanks to the amazing friend, cellist and collaborator Matt Haimovitz for enabling the countless inspirations of this ennobled project.


Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis draws artistic inspiration from a vast palette of sources woven into the tapestry of a musical language of rich lyric splendor, vivid poetic imagery, and fierce instrumental brilliance. He has been praised for his “fearless originality [and] powerful voice” (The New York Times).   

Among the most esteemed musical figures of our time, he is dedicated to creating music which can be meaningful to people’s lives, through its expressive intensity and abundance of expression. His music has been heard on major stages globally, performed by the world’s foremost artists and institutions, including soprano Renee Fleming, violinists James Ehnes and Joshua Bell, guitarist Sharon Isbin, the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Walt Disney Company, Rose Center for Earth and Space at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, BBC, Toronto and San the Francisco Symphonies. 

One of America’s most honored composers, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, is an inductee of the Classical Music Hall of Fame, won the coveted Nemmers and Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for his String Quartet No. 2 (“musica instrumentalis”), and received three Grammy Award nominations.

His works have been recorded widely on the Nonesuch, Koch, Naxos, Signum, Virgin and Argo labels, among others. Leta Miller’s book-length portrait of Kernis and his work was published by the University of Illinois Press. He has taught composition at Yale School of Music since 2003.