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Yolanda Kondonassis and Michael Sachs Release Video Premiere by Aaron Jay Kernis on June 3, 2021

Aaron Jay Kernis’ Elegy . . . for those we lost

Video Performance Premieres on The Cleveland Orchestra's Streaming Platform June 3, 2021 | |

Multiple GRAMMY-nominated harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and The Cleveland Orchestra’s principal trumpet Michael Sachs announce the world premiere video performance of Aaron Jay Kernis’ Elegy . . . for those we lost. Kernis wrote this work just one year ago offering music to reflect, mourn, and remember those lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is presented for the first time in this arrangement created especially for Sachs and Kondonassis.

Kondonassis states, “This powerful work by Aaron Jay Kernis illuminates the full spectrum of emotions that we have all collectively internalized throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: grief, paralysis, denial, rage, anxiety, love, gratitude, and finally - peace. It is an important work at a critical time when music can be a healing force as we find our way back to life.”

The video premieres as part of the penultimate episode of The Cleveland Orchestra’s 15-episode inaugural In Focus digital concert series, captured live at the Orchestra’s home, Severance Hall. From Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 7pm ET through September 3, 2021, the performance will be available for on-demand viewing to premium members of Adella, The Cleveland Orchestra’s digital streaming service. Entitled Celestial Serenades, this virtual concert also features The Cleveland Orchestra performing Kernis’ Musica Celestis and Suk’s Serenade for Strings, Opus 6. More information on how to watch is available at and

Kernis is currently collaborating with Kondonassis on her recently announced project, FIVE MINUTES for Earth®, for which Kondonassis has tasked fifteen of today’s most innovative compositional voices with creating works or soundscapes of five minutes or less for the harp that express a powerful experience inspired by Earth in one of its many conditions or atmospheres. All pieces will be recorded and released on Azica Records in March 2022, with world premiere performances taking place in NYC and LA in April 2022 (Earth Day month).The concept of the project is built upon the idea of bringing the classical music community together in support of earth conservation and “paying it forward” through one’s artistic contribution, where the creation and performance of music actually generates funding for earth causes. After the works are premiered and released on recording by Yolanda, the music will be available to harpists worldwide, and for each verified performance of any work in the FIVE MINUTES collection - by any harpist, anywhere in the world - Kondonassis’ non-profit organization Earth at Heart® will make a donation to a recognized earth conservation organization. The beneficiary organizations include The Rainforest Alliance, The Sierra Club Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy, and Wildlife Fund.

About Yolanda Kondonassis: Yolanda Kondonassis is celebrated as one of the world’s premier solo harpists and is widely regarded as today’s most recorded classical harpist. Hailed as “viscerally exciting” (The Chicago Tribune) and a “brilliant and expressive player” (The Dallas Morning News), she has performed around the globe as a concerto soloist and in recital, bringing her unique brand of musicianship and warm artistry to an ever-increasing audience. Also a published author, speaker, professor of harp, and environmental activist, she weaves her many passions into a vibrant and multi- faceted career.

Kondonassis has sold hundreds of thousands of albums and downloads worldwide and her extensive discography includes over twenty titles. She continues to be a pioneering force in the harp world, striving to make her instrument more accessible to audiences and pushing the boundaries of what listeners expect of the harp. She was nominated for a 2020 Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for the world premiere recording of Jennifer Higdon’s Harp Concerto with The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (Azica Records, 2019). Her 2008 album of music by Takemitsu and Debussy, Air (Telarc), was also nominated for a Grammy Award.

Since making her debut at age 18 with the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta, Kondonassis has appeared as soloist with major orchestras in the United States and abroad including The Cleveland Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, and Hong Kong Philharmonic, to name a few. Other engagements include performances at renowned festivals including the Marlboro, Spoleto, Tanglewood, and Santa Fe; she has been featured on CNN and PBS, as well as Sirius XM Radio’s Symphony Hall, NPR’s All Things Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts, St. Paul Sunday Morning, and Performance Today.

Kondonassis is committed to the advancement of contemporary music for her instrument, with recent premieres including works by Bright Sheng and Jennifer Higdon. Her extensive discography includes works by Rorem, Rochberg, Erb, Liebermann, Paulus, Fitch, Lash, Montsalvatge, Takemitsu, Cage, and Carter, among others. Her most recent book, The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Harp, was released by Carl Fischer Music in 2019.

In addition to her active solo, chamber music, and recording schedule, Kondonassis heads the harp departments at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Institute of Music, and presents masterclasses around the world.

About Michael Sachs: Michael Sachs joined The Cleveland Orchestra as principal trumpet in 1988. His many performances as soloist with the Orchestra include the world premieres of John Williams’s Concerto for Trumpet and Michael Hersch’s Night Pieces for trumpet and orchestra (both commissioned by the Orchestra for Sachs), the United States and New York premieres of Hans Werner Henze’s Requiem, and, in 2012, the world premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s Chute d’Étoiles, conducted by Cleveland Orchestra Music Director, Franz Welser-Möst at the Lucerne Festival. He has also soloed in works by Handel, Haydn, Copland, Martin, Neruda, Tamberg, Shostakovich, Telemann, Vivaldi, and Bach, and most recently performed Hummel's Trumpet Concerto in E major with the Orchestra in November 2019.

Sachs serves as head of the trumpet department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and is a member of the faculty at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music. In addition to serving as a faculty member of leading summer festivals — including the Aspen Music Festival, Blekinge International Brass Academy, Domaine Forget, Grand Tetons Music Festival, National Brass Symposium, and National Orchestral Institute — he presents masterclasses and workshops at conservatories and major universities throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia as a clinician for Conn-Selmer (maker of Bach trumpets). At the invitation of Sir Georg Solti, he served as principal trumpet and instructor for the Solti Orchestral Project at Carnegie Hall.

Sachs has also appeared as guest soloist with United States and international orchestras and chamber groups, including the Houston Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Auckland (New Zealand) Philharmonia, Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra (Ostrava, Czech Republic), and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His April 2005 recital of music for trumpet and organ with Todd Wilson was recorded and released by the Musical Arts Association on an album titled Live from Severance Hall.

He is the author of several books, including Daily Fundamentals for the Trumpet, Mahler: Symphonic Works Complete Trumpet Parts, 14 Duets for Trumpet and Trombone (with Joseph Alessi), and The Orchestral Trumpet, a 176-page comprehensive book and CD overview of standard orchestral trumpet repertoire. Sachs has also been extensively involved in the acoustic design and play testing for the creation of the new Bach 190 C trumpet and 25M lead pipe, as well as the Artisan line of Bach Stradivarius trumpets.

Michael Sachs has served as music director of Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, since 2015. Sachs was also involved in the planning of the National Brass Ensemble concert, recording, and DVD project in 2014, which featured music of Gabrieli, Copland, and a new work composed for this event by John Williams. This project featured principal members of the brass sections of the symphony orchestras of Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

Before coming to Cleveland, Sachs was a member of the Houston Symphony as well as a faculty member of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Originally from Los Angeles, Michael Sachs earned a bachelor of arts degree in history from UCLA prior to attending the Juilliard School. His former teachers include Mark Gould, Anthony Plog, and James Stamp.

About Aaron Jay Kernis: Winner of two 2019 Grammy Awards (including “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” for his violin concerto for James Ehnes), a Pulitzer Prize, Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, and Nemmers Award, Aaron Jay Kernis is one of America’s most performed and honored composers.

His music appears prominently on concert programs worldwide, and he has been commissioned by America’s preeminent performing organizations and artists, including the New York and Royal Liverpool Philharmonics, San Francisco, Toronto, and Melbourne (AU) Symphonies, Los Angeles and Saint Paul Chamber and Minnesota Orchestras, Walt Disney Company, The Knights, San Francisco Girls and Brooklyn Youth Choruses, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Joshua Bell, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Sharon Isbin to name a few.

His works have been recorded on Nonesuch, Naxos, Phoenix, Onyx, Signum, Virgin Cedille, and Argo, with which Kernis had an exclusive recording contract, and many other labels. Recent and upcoming are discs including his new flute concerto with flutist Marina Piccinini and Leonard Slatkin/Marin Alsop conducting the Peabody Symphony; his third string quartet (“River”) as part of the Jasper Quartet’s The Kernis Project; the Grammy-winning recording of his violin concerto for James Ehnes with the Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot; and the Nashville Symphony and Giancarlo Gurrero of recent orchestral music.

He is the Workshop Director of the Nashville Symphony Composer Lab and, for 15 years, served as New Music Adviser to the Minnesota Orchestra, with which he co-founded and directed its Composer Institute for 11 years. Kernis teaches composition at Yale School of Music, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Classical Music Hall of Fame. Leta Miller’s book-length portrait of Kernis and his work was published in 2014 by University of Illinois Press as part of its American Composer series.

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