CD Baby



"Cries of righteous despair replete with filmic imagery bring about a highly portentous, resolute theme containing fragments of narrative commitment, which is in turn interrupted by penetrating, inescapable anguish that the composer must brave and tame in order to dive into the first movement - and the symphony - proper, where we have a chance to explore the musical and psychological implications of those fierce introductory eruptions. All this happens during the first ninety seconds of the work.

The listener embarks upon a personal musical disclosure of events, while receiving the full range and impact of the emotional content of those events, not necessarily in a linear or traditional formal fashion - for which the title of ‘Symphony’ may be misleading unless one’s conceptions and traditional expectations are left behind on this very personal journey. The apparent absence of traditional formal cornerstones doesn’t weaken the larger structure, as the skeletal interweaving of themes and an abundance of dramaturgy and personal dictum, shift the educated audience’s conventional expectations of balance in a large work to the composer’s discretionary points of structural centres, as motivic/harmonic growth, orchestration, style, and even long-range musical targets, all defer to the composer’s own hierarchical system in this work, and serve his narrative and psychological struggles - perhaps ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ or ‘Sinfonia Narrativa’ could be alternative titles. In fact, the narrative intent is so much stronger than the rich musical material, that the movements could easily be perceived as sections of an instead monolithic musical epic, seen through the eyes and expressed in the singular voice of an individual witness.

We never become privy to the composer’s story without the intentionally undisclosed literal programme, and that draws us deeper into the work in search of that fascinating story - the very emphatic musical material suggests strong feelings of loss, despair, love, battle, religion, and triumph.

Technically, the composer feels secure in his uninhibited use of some Herrmannian, Tchaikovskyan, and Beethovenian devices, and a degree of stylistic eclecticism from different periods, as his own strong and original voice is ubiquitous and assimilating.

As one becomes more familiar with this and other works of W. Kersten, one is incrementally allowed greater insight into his mysterious and expansive world - a natural outcome over repeated hearings (a surprisingly welcome venture in the contemporary music world). And it is these repeated hearings that tell us that the work is worthwhile, when we discover something new about it every time; new layers, new elements, or new connections between those elements, etc.

W. Kersten’s music is as generous in these respects, as it is inspired. Most of all, it is honest; an almost extinct quality these days, especially in music composition."
- Errikos Vaios, Greece, 2013

Reno Gazette Journal



"Of special interest was the world premiere of American composer William Kersten's "Earth and Paradise." Kersten's music, always interesting and provocative, has become a rarity in a culture obsessed with copycat success: it has shed any hints of being derivative, and has stepped, by virture of its originality and freshness, across an important threshold into the realm of elegantly crafted, inspired art. Kersten's "Earth and Paradise," a song cycle of six rapturously constructed songs set to the poems of Christina Rossetti, Anne Bronte, Thomas Hood and Thomas Beddoes, touchingly, dramatically, movingly underscores the breadth, the elegance, the sweetness of the poems. It is stunning orchestral and vocal writing, clearly entrenched - as the poems are - in a lush romantic ambience which ebbs and flows with the rush of ideas and words describing the mysteries of life, death and paradise, much as Debussy's "La Mer" ebbs and flows putting the morality of man against the immortal mysteries of the sea.  Soprano Lori Trustman is the perfect vocal and artistic match for Kersten's songs. Her personal style, never an affectation for its own purposes, carefully intertwines singer with song while establishing a purity of pitch and tone, and an unstressed sensuality that allows vocal flights of elation to float dramatically and hauntingly over Kersten's detailed, poetic orchestral descriptions.... these are highly dramatic songs. The trick is to combine Kersten's orchestral concepts with a vocal line which is at times the center of attention, but which at other times becomes one with the orchestra - literally a part of the orchestration. The singer of these songs cannot merely perform as a soloist with an unusually rich accompaniment, but must perform as a compatriot in an integrated concerto for voice and oorhcestra. The cycle is musically exquisite and was marvelously brought off."

- review of the world premiere of "Earth and Paradise" by Reno Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Dr. David Ehrke, Lori Trustman, Soprano

CD Baby



"This cd represents the ultimate expression of Post Romantic heroism in music. It is a mature compilation of melodies and orchestration that inspires while evoking the strongest of emotions. Kersten has grown with every recording he has offered, and this expression of his work won't diappoint. This is a "must have" for anyone who likes Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, etc., showing that the material explored over a century ago is still alive and inspiring."

Reno Gazette Journal



"Kersten's "Adagio for String Orchestra" is reminiscent of Barber's "Adagio for Strings."  This is not to imply that Kersten's music is derivative; it isn't, but for those not in attendance it does give some idea of the work's overall impact. Kersten is also very much involved in films, so it isn't surprising that this piece, while very comfortable in a concert hall setting, has the dramatic ambience of a film score. The Kersten work goes full circle, beginning with a haunting, brooding theme in the violas, working its way through the strings with pungent jabs of dissonance and sustained momoents of lush, penentrating harmonies building in dramatic sensuality, then returning to the simple repose where it started."

- review of the world premiere performance by Reno Chamber Orchestra, Vahe Kochayan, conductor