In her music there is an incredible amount of detail, from whatever angle you approach her works. It is incredibly carefully constructed, and the facets that emerge are always fascinating. Deutschlandradio Kultur
Chaya Czernowin’s music is anchored in immediate sensory experience. It explores the relationship between the present and the submerged experience of the past or an imagined future through finely woven compositions, which at times erupt powerfully, as they explore the extremities of our perception. Geographically and musically, the composer is a traveller: born in 1957 in Haifa, she took her first steps in composition in Israel under Abel Ehrlich and Yitzhak Sadai before continuing her studies under the tuition of Dieter Schnebel in Berlin with a DAAD scholarship. After a period at New York’s Bard College, the composer completed her doctorate at the University of California, San Diego as a student of Roger Reynolds and Brian Ferneyhough. During a period of travelling and composition, further scholarships allowed her to work in Japan (Asahi Shimbun Scholarship, NEA Scholarship) and Germany (Akademie Schloss Solitude).
Her orchestral and chamber works, both of which often incorporate electronic elements, have been performed at renowned contemporary music festivals across Europe, Asia and North America. Having explored fragmentation and instrumental identities in chamber works such as Afatsim (1996) and her String Quartet (1995), her international breakthrough came after Pnima… ins Innere at the Munich Biennale in 2000, which received the Bayerischer Theaterpreis. In this piece, based on a story by David Grossmann, the composer tackles the archaeology of memory and thus indirectly her own history as the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Her second opera Adama was commissioned by the Salzburg Festival for Mozart’s 250th birthday as a companion piece to Zaide – a revised version of the opera was revived at the Theater Freiburg in 2017.
Winter Songs, begun at the same time as these two operas, is a continuing series that interprets the same septet in ever new ways in order to achieve ever new musical experiences. Maim (2001-2007) for large orchestra, soloists and electronics, explores the physicality and flexibility of musical material. In HIDDEN for string quartet and electronics, written in 2013/14 and recorded in the past year by the JACK Quartet, the composer stretches our perception of time and provides distorted reflections of musical material.
The outstanding work of the last few years was her critically acclaimed opera Infinite Now, which was premiered in 2017 under the direction of Titus Engel at the Opera Vlaanderen in Ghent, before further performances in Antwerp, Mannheim and Paris. Based on a story by the Chinese author Can Xue as well as Luk Perceval’s drama Front, itself based on Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, the opera explores the elongation of time in the face of catastrophe. Following on from this, her cello concerto Guardian was given its first performance by Séverine Ballon at the Donaueschingen Festival, before a further performance at the Rainy Days festival in Luxembourg. Chaya Czernowin is currently working on a new music theatre work for the Deutsche Oper Berlin.
Teaching is central to Chaya Czernowin as a way of developing her own compositional practice. In the 1990s, she was a regular guest lecturer at the International Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt. From 1997 to 2006 she taught composition at the University of California, San Diego, before holding the post of Professor at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. In 2009 she was called up to Harvard University, where she now teaches. Since 2003, she has led the International Masterclass for Young Composers, which she founded with Jean-Baptiste Joly, director of Schloss Solitude, and her husband, composer Steven Takasugi. She also teaches at the Tzlil Meudcan Festival in Israel.
The Quiet, a recording of orchestral works released on Wergo in 2017, was awarded the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik. Other recordings of her works have been released on Mode Records, Col Legno, Deutsche Grammophon, Neos, Ethos, Telos and Einstein Records. Chaya Czernowin has received numerous awards, including the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis (1992) the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung Composers’ Prize (2003), the Rockefeller Foundation Prize (2004), the Fromm Foundation Award (2008), a Guggenheim Fellowship Award (2011) and the Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis (2016). She was Composer in Residence at the Salzburg Festival in 2005/06 and the Lucerne Festival in 2013. She has been a member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin since 2017. Chaya Czernowin’s works are published by Schott.
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