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Briefly Noted: Lera Auerbach's Celloquy

available at Amazon
L. Auerbach, 24 Preludes for Cello and Piano / Cello Sonata / Postlude, A. Aznavoorian, L. Auerbach

(released on February 5, 2013)
CDR 90000 137 | 75'12"
Lera Auerbach has been one of the composers whose music I most want to hear since her first cello sonata came to my ears (the one for cello and piano, not the one for solo cello), on a recital by David Finckel and Wu Han, for whom it was composed, in 2005. Finckel and Han recorded the piece, a disc that is not widely available, but this new disc groups it with two other pieces for the combination, all performed by the composer and cellist Ani Aznavoorian. Auerbach is taken with the idea of the tour of major and minor keys in a set of twenty-four preludes and has composed three examples of the genre: for piano, violin and piano, and cello and piano, recorded here. The last time we heard Auerbach in performance, it was on this piece with cellist Alisa Weilerstein at the Kennedy Center in 2009, and the recording gives a much-appreciated opportunity to revisit this polystylistic tour de force. You hear the influence of many other composers and styles in Auerbach's miniatures, but they are just as often undercut with irony (a Shostakovich or Prokofiev gesture) as treated seriously. She embraces more dissonant and more tonal ends of the spectrum (after defecting to the U.S. in 1991, she studied composition with Milton Babbitt), often juxtaposing them and even incorporating popular music of various kinds -- even rock music in no. 17, or the Habañera in no. 22. The only regret is that Sasha Cooke was not brought in to record the version of the G# minor prelude (no. 12) with a vocalise added for her, a version that she performed with Weilerstein and Auerbach as an encore at that 2009 recital -- instead we have the Postlude, a transformation of prelude no. 12 with prepared piano. Aznavoorian has a gritty, big-throated tone, going for rough edges in the harmonics and other unusual techniques, enlarging the palette of sound available.

Lera Auerbach's opera The Blind, from 2011, will be staged at the Lincoln Center Festival next month (July 9 to 14).

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