Generously commissioned by Peter and Cathy Halstead and Tippet Rise. Orchestral version commissioned by ROCO and Santa Fe Pro Musica. Written for Nicholas Phan.
Earth is a work about what is likely the most important issue of our time.
The two movements are a story, and a song. The first, “Seasons,” is a story of a farmer and the land that he lives on, works and raises his family — a microcosm of our own lives on this ground we call home. This text is by poet, sustainable farmer and researcher Kai Hoffman-Krull, who lives and farms near Seattle. I came to know him first as a Yale poet (I teach at Yale School of Music) and followed his work with composer Michael Gilbertson before suggesting we collaborate together.
The second movement, “Farewell,” is a song on an excerpt of Tintern Abbey (from 1798), a poem by William Wordsworth, who wrote passionately and powerfully about his love of nature.
Writing the work began as a homage to Gustav Mahler’s late song cycle, Das Lied von Der Erde (The Song of the Earth), a work I love deeply. Its last movement is titled “The Farewell (Der Abschied),” and is a rhapsodic, pensive and deeply spiritual farewell to earthly life. The instrumentation of Earth particularly highlights instruments that Mahler himself featured prominently in this work — flute, oboe, and horn, along with extensive string solos.
This work is additionally inspired by the rare artistry of tenor Nicholas Phan, for whom it was written, and by the artistic venue Tippet Rise. Tippet Rise is on hundreds of acres of protected, exquisite, ruggedly beautiful land in Montana, founded by Peter, and Cathy Halstead. The original chamber version of this work was commissioned by them as part of a three-work project that they, with great generosity, commissioned from me in recent years. I want to warmly thank Alecia Lawyer, ROCO, and Santa Fe Pro Musica for supporting this expanded orchestral version of Earth which was created especially for them.
— Aaron Jay Kernis