Chaya Czernowin was born in 1957 in Israel and studied composition at the Tel Aviv Rubin Academy of Music from 1976 until 1982. Fellowships and studies followed in Berlin (DAAD scholarship 83- 85), the USA (University of California, where she received her Ph.D., 1987-93), Japan (1993-95 Asahi Shimbun Fellowship and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship USA), and Germany (fellow, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, 1996). During these years she was able to concentrate on forming her musical language and thought. Her main teachers were Abel Ehrlich, Izhak Sadai, Dieter Schnebel, Eli Yarden, Joan Tower, Brian Ferneyhough, and Roger Reynolds.
Czernowin’s chamber and orchestral music has been played at more than forty festivals all over the world and include commissions by major ensembles, orchestras, and festivals (Ensemble Modern, Klangforum Wien, Intercontemporain IRCAM, ELISION, Recherche, San Francisco Contemporary Players, ORF Orchestra, Vienna, SWR Baden-Baden Orchestra, and Munich Philharmonic, to mention a few). Characteristic of her work are attempts to find alternative temporalities, changing perspectives and scale, fragmentation, examination, and stretching of identity; all coupled with a strong physical imprint and high emotional intensity.
Czernowin wrote the opera Pnima…ins Innere for the Munich Biennale 2000. This work hauntingly treats the difficulty of communicating a traumatic experience, in this case the Jewish holocaust. The work was awarded the Bavarian Theater Prize and was named “Best Premiere of the Year 2000” by the critic's survey of the magazine Opernwelt. In 2005 and in 2006 Czernowin was composer in residence at the Salzburg Festival, where she was commissioned to supplement Mozart's opera Zaïde. The resulting work Zaide/Adama, fragments, is a first attempt of its kind to answer an unfinished work with an intervening contemporary “counterpoint work.” Zaide/Adama, fragments was broadcast on ARD TV and recorded on Deutsche Gramophone.
Czernowin sees composition teaching as directly connected to her compositional work. She has taught composition at the Yoshiro Irino Institute, JML, Tokyo, Japan, and at the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music (where she won the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis in 1992). From 1997 to 2006 Chaya Czernowin was professor of music composition at the University of California, San Diego. In 2006-2009 she was chosen to be the first female composition professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. Since 2003 Czernowin has directed the Summer Academy for Composers at the Akedemie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart. Guest professorships, presentations, and master classes include Tokyo University for the Fine Arts, Yonsei University, Korea, Gothenburg Music Academy, Sweden, Helsinki Sibelius Academy, Finland, Oslo Music Academy, Paris Conservatoire, Graz Music University, Basel Academy, Zurich Hochschule, Stanford University, Columbia University, Yale, Florida State University, Gainesville, Leeds, and Brunell Universities, England, and many others.
In addition to numerous other prizes, Czernowin was awarded the IRCAM reading panel commission in 1998, a few scholarships of the SWR experimental Studio Freiburg, Förderpreis of the Ernst-von-Siemens Music Foundation in 2003, an award from the Rockefeller Foundation in 2004, and the Fromm Foundation Award in 2008. Her work is published by Schott.
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