• Aaron Jay Kernis
  • Portraits and Diversions (2023)
    (for Orchestra)

  • AMP and AJK Music (World)

Commissioned for the Palm Beach Symphony by Ambassador Bonnie McElveen-Hunter in honor of Leonard and Judy Lauder in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Palm Beach Symphony Orchestra

Commissioner exclusivity applies

Under exclusivity through March 6, 2025

  • 2(II:pic).2(II:ca).2(II:Ebcl,bcl).2/2.0+2ctpt.2.0/timp.2perc/hp/str
  • 22 min

Programme Note

1. Palindromic Overture

Poco Maestoso-Allegro con moto

2. Double Portrait (with frame)

Frame- Charis (Edward Weston)- Composition with Violin (Pablo Picasso), Violin and Sheet Music: Petit Oiseau (George Braque) -Frame

3. Nocturne (Love Song)

Adagio Espressivo

4. Collage- Rondo



Portraits and Diversions is, in essence, a four- movement symphony in classical proportions. The tone of much of the piece is upbeat, optimistic and light-hearted, like a classical divertimento, but the music is very much of its own time. The piece was commissioned by Bonnie McElveen-Hunter to honor Leonard Lauder and Judy Glickman Lauder and to celebrate the 40th anniversary season of the Palm Beach Symphony.

While I had the pleasure of meeting the Lauders in New York in the company of Ms. McElveen Hunter, I’ve gotten to know them more through the volumes of wonderful and exquisitely chosen art and photographs they’ve collected and shared with the world through their books and collections. During the process of creating this compact symphony. Mr. Lauder’s autobiographical memoir The Company I Keep was notably inspiring for its optimism, passion and panache in relaying a life fully lived.

Beginning with a noble opening theme (which will return at the end of the work), the Palindromic Overture quickly swerves to energetic motives which trade off from winds to strings to brass- often with a bluesy character and driving intensity. 

Following a brief and bracing sonic framing, the body of the second movement, Double Portrait (with frame) is influenced by three works of art from the Lauder’s collections, first the erotic formalism of Edward Weston’s photograph Charis, then by the strong lines and contrasts of two masterful cubist paintings, Pablo Picasso’s masterful Composition with Violin and George Braque’s Violin and Sheet Music . Rather than emphasizing the formal elements of the Weston, sensuality takes precedence through the shapely, lyrical string writing featured in this section. The Picasso put me in mind of many other paintings of his and George’ that give prominence to musicians and musical instruments. While this section indeed features solo violin, I fill it with music I expect was heard in Parisian cafe filled with Spanish expats- evoking the habanera by way of the tango.

The 3rd movement, Nocturne is also a love song, a reflection on finding love later in life. Anchored by solo cello, with appearances by the plaintive English horn, the music is tender and frequently stormy in character.

Collage-Rondo, which closes the symphony, is full of sharp contrasts and sudden shifts of mood. A visual collage is often immediately dense and layered to the eye, while in this case the collage-like elements are processed through, one after the other in time. Fueled by buoyant energy and reckless bravado it evokes a puckish carnival atmosphere at times, reminiscent in tone of the early period when both Picasso and Stravinsky were living in Paris. Portraits and Diversions concludes with the return of the warm opening theme and a final flourish of hectic bustle.


The dedication of the work reads “ written to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Palm Beach Symphony, Gerard Schwarz, Music Director. Generously commissioned by Bonnie McElveen-Hunter in honor of Leonard Lauder and Judy Glickman Lauder, in acknowledgment of the richness of their experience, generosity and philanthropy.”

Warm thanks to Maestro Schwarz for introducing Ms. MacElveen Hunter to me, and for his enthusiastic support over many years.

The work is scored for two each of flutes (with piccolo), oboes (with English horn). Clarinets (with piccolo and bass clarinets), bassoons, horns, trumpets and trombones , with harp, timpani, percussion and strings. It last approximately 22 minutes.



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