If anyone was heir to Gustav Mahler’s wide-eyed wonder at the universe and gifts of evocation, it would be Aaron Jay Kernis.
His Musica Celestis is a glowing adagio for strings that brings to mind all the heavenly music ever written, from Hildegard of Bingen to Beethoven to Barber. Its 12-minute span touches minimalist ecstacy and Romantic awe.
Mahler’s most concise symphony is also his most approachable and gemütlich (‘homely’). Yet the blue skies of the Fourth Symphony are disturbed when the world intrudes into this innocent place, then death, who plays a strange tune on his fiddle. It’s once again a celestial adagio that opens the gates to heaven. Described with gorgeous naivety by a solo soprano, heaven is a childlike dream, permeated, naturally, by music: ‘angelic voices gladden our senses, so that all awaken for joy’.