Aaron Jay Kernis’ “Air”: A Love Letter to the Violin

In his program notes, American composer Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960) describes Air as “a love letter to the violin.”

Written in 1995 for Joshua Bell, the piece is dedicated to Kernis’ wife, the pianist Evelyne Luest. It unfolds with a direct, songlike lyricism which warmly embraces tonality. Occasionally, there are echoes of the music of Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and perhaps even late Mahler.

The opening bars pull us into a lush, pastoral soundscape. It’s a dreamy, ever-shifting kaleidoscope of pastel tones. Gradually, the music builds in intensity and passion, culminating in a cadenza in the solo violin which floats into the instrument’s highest register before delivering us back “home.” In the final moments, following a searing dissonance, the piece drifts away into a celestial E-flat major resolution.

Here is Joshua Bell’s recording with David Zinman and the Minnesota Orchestra:


  • Kernis: Air for Violin, Joshua Bell, David Zinman, Minnesota Orchestra Amazon

Photograph: McAffee Knob on Virginia’s Appalachian Trail, Patricia Keppel

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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