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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. 

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. 

New-Music Premieres in Detroit, David Mermelstein, the Wall Street Journal

“The 34-year-old Mr. Cerrone is among that select group of young composers whose work is known beyond arcane musical circles. His opera “Invisible Cities,” based on Italo Calvino’s short novel of the same name and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, was something of a cultural happening when it received its premiere in 2013. Audiences heard it via headphones while roaming the corridors of Los Angeles’s bustling Union Station, where its scenes unfolded amid unwitting travelers.

Literary sources figure prominently in Mr. Cerrone’s oeuvre, which thus far consists primarily of chamber and solo pieces. So it is with his new Violin Concerto, which carries the title “Breaks and Breaks,” words taken from the final stanza of Stanley Kunitz’s poem “The Testing-Tree.” Ironically, the concerto itself contains no pauses, or breaks, within its seven movements. The piece, whose varied imagery was also influenced by several non-Kunitz texts, was written for the Chicago-born violinist Jennifer Koh, a musician of immaculate control, keen intelligence and a slightly cool demeanor, for whom the composer had previously written a short solo work.

The combination of score and soloist could hardly have been better matched. The piece opens with the solo violin calmly ascendant against muted strings, the ambience quickly punctured by disconcerting whispers from the flutes. A range of moods and modes then enter and recede, with the solo line shifting from dizzyingly intense to plaintively soulful and back again. Though attention is mostly focused on the soloist, other voices occasionally spike the mix, including a haunted-sounding piano that augurs darkly against a drumbeat. The short opening melody recurs several times in different guises, but never more movingly than when echoed by massed strings in a gesture of musical community. After rapid figures from the soloist hearken to Bach and an aural fog subsumes them, sharp cries from the violin suggest an impending conclusion, but the end is postponed until after the soloist recedes and a gentle corona of plinking percussion fades out.”

CSO musicians perform contemporary chamber works keyed to Art Institute galleries, Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune

Christopher Cerrone’s “Memory Palace,” for percussion and electronics, was in structure and poetic theme about reclaiming the past, making it appropriate for the Art Institute’s recreation of Louis Sullivan’s Trading Room. Despite remarks that could have been construed as meaning the space is a transplanted original rather than reconstruction, the room cast a strong spell under blue light as virtuoso Cynthia Yeh played an array of instruments both conventional and homemade. As with the other galleries, the sound quality was here enhancing rather than blurring or sharply clarifying. So Yeh worked her magic, subtle as well as with capacity to startle, much to the satisfaction of a grateful composer and peripatetic audience.

Sleeping Giant: Hand Eye CD review – brilliant performances of exciting new commissions, Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Cerrone’s South Catalina, is bright, shiny, outgoing.

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.

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.

Phillips Camerata and guests perform a trio of Washington premieres, Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post

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.