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This Week in Classical Music, Joshua Barone, NY Times

If you need something to binge watch this weekend, try the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s YouTube channel. That ambitious ensemble has put videos of all its world premieres from the past season online. One in particular that I keep coming back to: Christopher Cerrone’s violin concerto, written for Jennifer Koh. (I’m always eager to hear what this adventurous violinist is up to, and was able to observe some of her insightful rehearsals with composers earlier this year.)Mr. Cerrone’s concerto, “Breaks and Breaks,” is full of pain, but also beautiful lyricism. Keep an ear out for the final movement, which has the feel of looping. Ms. Koh plays pizzicato or glides her bow across a string with a pure, ornament-free sound. Each pitch is sustained in the orchestra, creating a swirl of sound typically reserved for electronics and improvisation. For all this sonic density, the movement gracefully arrives at a serene chord that brings this all-to-brief concerto to its end.

100 metronomes can’t be wrong, but Cerrone premiere impresses most in Ligeti program, Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

Cerrone is clearly a gifted composer with an impressive individual voice as was made manifest in this Chicago premiere. One can immediately understand why Third Coast commissioned him. The percussion writing is resourceful yet economical throughout–as with the strummed guitar chords that open the first song with a bardic quality. While Cerrone’s instrumental scoring is striking in its effects, there is none of the see-what-I-can-do-with-a-cheese-grater excess that can pervade percussion quartet compositions.

More impressive still was the depth of the vocal writing, as fully realized by Calloway. There was a touching, plaintive quality to the searching line of “In My Dream.” And Calloway handled the soaring high climax of “My Companion and I” with expressive poise and technical aplomb. At its best, Cerrone’s vocal writing has a concentrated lyric beauty and conversational ease that recall Samuel Barber.

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra Grabs Our Attention and Holds It, Richard S. Ginell, San Francisco Classical Voice

Christopher Cerrone’s High Windows, a West Coast premiere, also featured a string orchestra distilling elements from more than one century. Starting with a paraphrase of a Paganini caprice, the piece used repetitive and additive methods that gradually gathered strength until blossoming into a threnody of great beauty at the work’s center point.

More impressive still was the depth of the vocal writing, as fully realized by Calloway. There was a touching, plaintive quality to the searching line of “In My Dream.” And Calloway handled the soaring high climax of “My Companion and I” with expressive poise and technical aplomb. At its best, Cerrone’s vocal writing has a concentrated lyric beauty and conversational ease that recall Samuel Barber.

Review: Jeffrey Kahane leaves L.A. Chamber Orchestra as master musician and mensch, Mark Swed, LA Times

A political statement also characterized Cerrone’s “Will There Be Singing.” The Brooklyn-based 33-year-old composer, whose opera “Invisible Cities” was given at L.A.’s Union Station in 2014, writes in a program note on his website that although he does not consider himself politically inclined, he felt compelled to address America’s depressing political atmosphere.The title comes from Bertolt Brecht: “In dark times/Will there also be singing?” Cerrone doesn’t need Brecht’s question mark, so sure is he that the answer is yes. Yet in the end Cerrone produces far more light than darkness in the 11-minute score, which opens with the radiance of ringing bells and flows through a wondrous soundscape of glowing winds and rapturous string harmonics.

Review: An inward tour through ‘Invisible Cities’, Mark Swed, LA Times

Cerrone is a composer based in Brooklyn who turns 30 next year, and his instrumental writing has the quality of glittery, half-lighted surfaces enhanced by Postminimalist patterns. His vocal style is lyrical and owes a debt to John Adams. There are fanciful dramatic outbursts as well, but mostly the score sounds as if it floats, very agreeably, on an acoustical cushion slightly lighter than air. […] a delicate and beautiful opera. […] “Invisible Cities” is enhanced by, but, like Polo’s Venice, not defined by exteriors. It could be, and should be, done anywhere.

Invisible Cities, the Wandering Opera Through Union Station, Is a Welcome Adventure, Christian Hertzog, LA Weekly

The young Brooklyn composers with whom Cerrone is identified are known for blurring lines between indie pop and classical music. Cerrone’s compositions eschew these flirtations; his music displays rhythmic flexibility and a grittiness often missing in his colleagues’ works. He has a sure grasp of instrumentation; his vocal writing sets one note per syllable in declamatory yet rhapsodic melodies that float above the more regular rhythms and melodic patterns in the orchestra. Cerrone explores limited materials (the first three notes of a minor scale, for instance) with maximal results, developing an entire scene out of three or four pitches without auditory tedium.

Cerrone dared to turn something with an abstract, poetic structure into a subtle and beautiful musical meditation on travel, cultural differences, death, and memory. Let’s hope more American composers and librettists challenge audiences with wonderful, new theatrical experiences — as Cerrone and Sharon did — instead of spoon-feeding them known commodities adorned with arias and pretty music.

Putting art to music, with wondrous results, Mark Swed, L.A. Times

Of special beauty was Christopher Cerrone’s “Hoyt-Schermerhorn,” a brilliantly solemn intoning of pianistic bells by the composer of the opera “Invisible Cities,” evoking a preternaturally transformed Brooklyn subway stop.

Pop Music Recital With a Classical Veneer, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times

Those qualities [engaging a pop ballad and ultimately that of the concert hall] were also finely balanced in Mr. Cerrone’s “I Will Learn to Love a Person,” based on words by Tao Lin, which was here performed in a version for soprano, piano and percussion (Matt Evans, meticulous and expressive). The music features daring vocal jumps and a vibraphone part that obsessively trails that of the piano, perfectly capturing a quintessentially millennial text that sounds like the rambling voice mail messages left by an obsessive lover.

Invisible Cities: Opera Review, Myron Meisel, The Hollywood Reporter

Christopher Cerrone‘s music is lyrical and rigorous and points the words with skillful felicity and no little gorgeousness. He inventively mimics Calvino’s tone with recurring musical ideas that repeatedly change perspective. He’s undeniably already a composer of considerable gifts.

Opera for the Masses, Ezrha Jean Black, Artillery Magazine

One of the most original theatrical productions and possibly the most original opera of the century to date.

Phillips Camerata and guests perform a trio of Washington premieres, Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post, 10/7/2011 

The afternoon opened with the Washington premiere of Christopher Cerrone’s “High Windows,” for solo string quartet and string ensemble. It is an imaginative work in a personal minimalist fashion calling for powerfully lunging bows, sighing harmonics and perky half-tone statements. Cyr led the players with tasteful panache, emphasizing the fluidity of the music. One of the lush moments in the ever-changing texture of the Cerrone echoed Samuel Barber’s elegiac temperament.

Musical Themes, Covering Landscapes, Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, 10/7/2011 

In “The Night Mare” Christopher Cerrone uses an electronic drone and sudden mezzo-piano instrumental thwacks — actually toneless string and woodwind attacks with no follow through — to suggest the dark, eerie atmosphere of a dream gone wrong. With that as backdrop he builds gentle but anxiety-drenched themes from delicate, treble piano figures and fills out the texture with a blend of vibraphones and electronic timbres that together create the impression of a distant, wordless chorale. Mr. Cerrone’s scoring is skillful and economical, and he captures the spirit of a nightmare without diving into a sea of cinematic clichés. His piece was the program’s highlight.


A Gathering of Songs and Friends, Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 2/6/2013

Among variously intriguing songs by Ricky Ian Gordon, Tarik O’Regan, Andrew Haile Austin, Harold Meltzer and Derek Bermel, Christopher Cerrone’s “That Night With the Green Sky” stood out. A setting of a text by the writer Tao Lin, the song, with lapping riffs and hints of Asian harmonies in the piano, is a lonely person’s remembrance of walking the city streets with someone he loved on a snowy night.

The Week Ahead, Russell Platt, The New Yorker, 5/11/11

…A rising star…

Honoring a Mentor, Muse and Colleague All in One, Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

The second half of the program opened with chamber arrangements of Ives songs by Red Light’s composer-directors, Scott Wollschleger, Vincent Raikhel, Christopher Cerrone and Liam Robinson. Each made inventive use of the full lineup of the Red Light Ensemble, a woodwind, string and piano septet conducted by Ted Hearne. Mr. Wollschleger and Mr. Raikhel were the boldest in their textural reconfigurations, but the gentler pieces — Mr. Cerrone’s soft-hued version of “Serenity (A Unison Chant)” and Mr. Robinson’s cheerful “Memories” — proved the most effective.

Ensemble ACJW @ Zankel Music Center, Skidmore 2/10/12, Joseph Dalton, Albany Times-Union

The most original section of “Histories” was Christopher Cerrone’s movement titled “Recovering.” After dispersing to surround the audience, the four wind players used their instruments to create pitch-less breathy columns of air. Meanwhile onstage, Skidmore played a furtive and beautiful solo on the vibraphones. The low key and eloquent writing was a welcome respite amidst an evening of high intensity music and drama.