Chaya Czernowin was born and brought up in Israel. After her studies in Israel, at the age of 25, she continued studying in Germany (DAAD grant), the US, and then lived in Tokyo, Japan (Asahi Shimbun Fellowship and American NEA grant), and in Germany (a fellowship at the Akademie Schloss Solitude). Her music has been performed throughout the world, by the best orchestras and performers of new music, and she has held a professorship at UCSD and was the first woman to be appointed as a composition professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria (2006–2009), and at Harvard University, USA (2009 -to the present) where she has been the Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music. Together with Steven Kazuo Takasugi and Jean-Baptiste Jolly, the director of Akademie Schloss Solitude near Stuttgart, she has founded the summer Academy at Schloss Solitude, a biannual course for composers, 2003- 2019. Takasugi and Czernowin also taught at Tzlil Meudcan, an international course based in Israel founded by Yaron Deutsch of Ensemble Nikel.
Czernowin’s output includes chamber and orchestral music, with and without electronics. Her works were played in most of the significant new music festivals. She composed 4 large scale works for the stage: Pnima...ins Innere (2000, Munich Biennale) chosen to be the best premiere of the year by Opernwelt yearly critic survey, and received the prestigious Bayerischer Theaterpreis; Adama (2004/5) with Mozart's Zaide (Salzburg Festival 2006) Adama has a second version written with Ludger Engles, with an added choir which was presented in Freiburg Stadttheater (2017). The opera Infinite Now was written in 2017, a commission of Vlaamse Opera Belgium, IRCAM Paris, and Mannheim Stadtheater. The piece combines/ superimposes materials of the first world war (Luk Perceval's theater piece "FRONT") with the short story Homecoming by Can Xue. This opera was chosen as the premier of the year in the international critics’ survey of Opernwelt. In 2018/2019 Czernowin Wrote the text and music to Heart Chamber which was premiered and commissioned by the Deutsche Oper Berlin, in the direction of Claus Guth to a strong critical and public acclaim. Czernowin was appointed Artist in residence at the Salzburg Festival in 2005/6 and at the Lucern Festival, Switzerland in 2013, and at Huddersfield Festival 2021.
Characteristic of her work are working with metaphor as a means of reaching and analyzing a sound world that is unfamiliar; the use of noise and physical parameters as weight, textural surface (as in smoothness or roughness, brightness or darkness); an inquiry of the handling of time; and shifting of scale. and perspective. These ways of working/thinking fuse her work with multi-sensory content and work to reach a sonic expression which includes the subconscious and goes beyond style, conventions, or rationality.
In addition to numerous other prizes, Czernowin represented Israel at Uncesco composer's Rostrum 1980; was awarded the DAAD scholarship ('83–85); Stipendiumpreis ('88) and Kranichsteiner Musikpreis ('92), at Darmstadt Fereinkurse; IRCAM (Paris) reading panel commission ('98); scholarships of SWR experimental Studio Freiburg ('98, '00, '01 and more); The composer’s prize of Siemens Foundation ('03); the Rockefeller Foundation, ('04); a nomination as a fellow to the Wissenschaftkolleg Berlin ('08); Fromm Foundation Award ('09); and Guggenheim Foundation fellowship ('11); Heidelberger Kunstlerinen Preis ('16); The WERGO portrait CD The Quiet (5 orchestral pieces) has been awarded the Quarterly German Record Critics’ Award ('16 ). She was chosen as a member of the Akademie der Kuenste in Berlin in 2017, and as a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, Munich in 2021. In 2022 She was awarded the Gema Authors prize in the Musiktheater (new opera) category.
Czernowin's work is published by Schott. Her music is recorded on Mode records NY, Wergo, Col Legno, Deutsche Gramophone, Kairos, Neos, Ethos, Telos Naxos, and Einstein Records. She lives near Boston with composer Steven Kazuo Takasugi. Czernowin is an Israeli/ American Citizen.
Biography taken from composer’s website.
Photo: Astrid Ackermann