Campus & Community

Chaya Czernowin appointed professor of music at Harvard

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Chaya Czernowin, a composer who has received wide acclaim for her sophisticated, emotional operas, has been appointed professor of music in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), effective July 1, 2009.

Czernowin, 50, is currently a composition professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria.

“Professor Czernowin is an exemplary composer, whose deeply moving operas and orchestral works reflect her energy, passion, and dedication to the craft,” said Diana Sorensen, dean for the arts and humanities in the FAS. “She is also an educator of the highest caliber who will bring much to the teaching and practice of music composition at Harvard.

In the past 15 years, Czernowin’s music has been performed at more than 35 festivals throughout the world. She is perhaps best known for her two operas, “Pnima…ins innere” (2000) and “Zaïde/Adama” (2006), both of which demonstrate Czernowin’s unusual approach to musical time and linearity.

“Pnima…ins innere,” which premiered at the Munich Biennale, is based on David Grossman’s novel “See Under: Love.” The opera addresses the impossibilities of communicating a traumatic experience. The piece was chosen as “best premiere of the year” by Opernwelt, a major European opera magazine, and also received the prestigious Bavarian Theatre Award.

Czernowin’s second opera, “Zaïde/Adama,” is a supplement to Mozart’s unfinished opera “Zaïde.” In 2004, the Salzburg Festival commissioned Czernowin to create a response to the Mozart piece. Czernowin composed a new opera — albeit with a similar theme — and interwove elements of “Zaïde” in the score. Two orchestras are required to perform the piece; one to play “Adama” and the other to perform the “Zaïde” fragments. The opera tells the tale of an ill-fated romance between a Palestinian man and an Israeli woman.

In addition to her operas, Czernowin has composed several works for orchestra with soloists and live electronics, as well as chamber music works. Many of her pieces are featured on solo CDs by major record companies. She is the winner of many composition prizes, including a Rockefeller Foundation Award (2004), an Ernst von Siemens Advancement Award (2003), the Asahi Shimbun Fellowship (1993), and the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis at the Darmstadt courses (1992). Most recently, she was nominated for the Wissenschaft Kolleg in Berlin.

Czernowin was born and raised in Israel. As a young scholar she received a fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service to study with Dieter Schnebel, a renowned experimental composer. In 1993, she earned a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

From 1997 to 2006 Czernowin was professor of composition at UCSD. She has held guest professorships at Harvard, Gothenburg University in Sweden, and Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. In addition, she has led master classes throughout Europe, the United States, Israel, Japan, and Korea. Since 2003, Czernowin has directed the biennial International Summer Academy for Young Composers in Stuttgart, Germany.