© Astrid Ackermann


Chaya Czernowin was born and brought up in Israel. At the age of 25, she continued studying in Germany, the US, Tokyo and in Vienna. Her music has been performed throughout the world, by some of 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 and on) where she has been the Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music. Together with Jean-Baptiste Jolly, the director of Akademie Schloss Solitude near Stuttgart and with composer Steven Kazuo Takasugi, she has founded the summer Academy at Schloss Solitude, a biannual course for composers. Takasugi and Czernowin also teach at Tzlil Meudcan, an international course based in Israel founded by Yaron Deutsch of Ensemble Nikel.

“Vital, visceral, wild and undefined as experience itself – can music be that? I have heard such music, rarely, but, it has changed my life. Attempting to work towards it, though, is a difficult balancing act: one must be as sensually sensitive as if one has no skin, while exercising the analytical clarity, precision and focus of holding a surgeon’s knife, ” Chaya Czernowin.

Czernowin’s output includes chamber and orchestral music, with and without electronics. Her works were played in most of the significant new music festival in Europe and also in Japan Korea, Australia, US and Canada. 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, 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. It was chosen as the premier of the year in the international critics survey of Opernwelt.  In 2020 Czernowin Wrote the text and music to Heart Chamber which was premiered and commissioned by the Deutsche Opere 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. 

Characteristic of her work are working with metaphor as a means of reaching a sound world which is unfamiliar; the use of noise and physical parameters as weight, textural surface (as in smoothness or roughness etc), problematization of time and unfolding and shifting of scale in order to create a vital, visceral and direct sonic experience. all this with the aim of reaching a music of the subconscious which goes beyond style conventions or rationality.

In addition to numerous other prizes, Czernowin received 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.

Czernowin's work is published by Schott. Her music is recorded on Mode records NY, Wergo, Col Legno, Deutsche Gramophone, Kairos, Neos, Ethos, Telos and Einstein Records. She lives near Boston with composer Steven Kazuo Takasugi.


© Astrid Ackermann


" Heart Chamber (2019) "


Editions Schott


An inquiry about love

Composition and text : Chaya Czernowin

Director : Claus Guth

Stage : Kristian Schmidt

Dramaturgy : Yvonne Gebauer / Dorothea Hartmann / Christoph Seuferle


Création le 15 novembre 2019, au Deutsche Oper Berlin, Germany.


Patrizia Ciofi, soprano / Dietrich Henschel, baritone / Noa Frenkel, contralto

Terry Wey, countertenor / Frauke Aulbert, vocal artist  

Ensemble Nikel 

(Patrick Stadler, saxophones / Yaron Deutsch, electric and amplified acoustic guitar / Antoine Françoise, keyboards and piano / Brian Archinal, percussion) plus Uli Fussenegger, double bass 

Choir : 16 voices  

Orchestra : Deutsche Oper Berlin, dir. Johannes Kalitzke  

Electronics : SWR Experimentalstudio Freiburg with Joachim Haas, Carlo Laurenzi and Lukas Nowok

This is a romantic opera for the twenty-first century. At its core are questions that could not have been asked seriously before. Is it inevitable that two people should be joined in a physical, emotional, social and familial bond ? Do we want to be alone, or do we want to live in a couple or in a family ? Must we sanctify love above all else ? Insofar as it tells a story – or describes a series of scenes – Heart Chamber does so in ways that engage us listeners aesthetically, psychologically and physically. As far as is possible, we are drawn into the same adventure into the unknown as the lovers themselves.

The opera follows a unique formal design that echoes Czernowin’s presentation of love that is not determined by social requirements or conventional narrative, but by the realities of physical and psychological change. Unlike HIDDEN or Infinite Now, Heart Chamber shifts its emphasis away from frozen moments of almost bottomless depth, and towards a continual forward motion: it is a constantly changing organism.At each step along the opera’s path something is added that changes its course, alters its endpoint. Following it is like tracing your finger through a maze, but in reverse. As elements combine, they open, they gain something, they lose something, they move forward. Where we end up is not encoded in where we began.”

Tim Rutherford-Johnson (From the Deutsche Oper Programme Notes)

Heart Chamber has only two characters and only a hint of a story — a chain of connected situations, dreams, nodal moments when something opens up or closes down — as the internal mental landscape of the lovers is propelled towards tectonic change.

The text is mostly written as a score where the voices are braided and talk almost simultaneously. Dialogues between the man and the woman are interrupted by dreams that are monologues, projecting the deep-seated ambivalence and conflicts that emerge as the lovers realize the demands of societal conventions of love.

Here is the third dream, which is dreamt by the woman :

My bathroom is long and endless. Its white but some moss is appearing from behind the tiles. I don’t notice it at first, but its growing fast.  Now I see it. I try to peel away the moss. I scratch at it hard with a brush with a knife with my fingernails with my teeth - the leaves are so small they escapes me. Now it's sprouting out  from under my fingernails spreading across my hands my stomach its enveloping my breast my throat my chin my mouth my nose my eyes I can not see i can’t see I can not move i can’t move I can not breath I can not breath I can not breath  i can not breathe. (…)

Heart Chamber is also an attempt to create a true multisensory experience, an experience of music in its sensual fabric, where music becomes smell, touch, cutting pain, extreme vulnerability, pure joy, or euphoria. The transitions and shifts between these states are uncontrolled and unpredictable.

Each of the protagonists is connected with an additional singer (an internal voice) who reveals the protagonists’ deep subconscious. The soprano’s internal voice is sung by a contralto and the baritone’s internal voice is sung by a countertenor. The internal and external voices do not always agree.

Musically, Heart Chamber is all about the voice, about using the voice, about communicating through the voice. The singers will be amplified and recorded ahead of time so that while a singer sings a phrase we might hear the same phrase with a subtle change coming from a loudspeaker, playing back the voice recorded intermittently with many different microphones, each illuminating the different colors of the same voice and of the same vocal line.