Lera Auerbach, just 30, has already achieved success as a pianist, composer (more than 60 opus numbers to date), novelist and poet. Born in the Soviet Union, she trained mainly in the US and in Germany. This, the first commercial CD of her music, benefits from powerful, strongly committed performances, and excellent recording – Auerbach’s style involves vivid, sometimes aggressive exploitation of the piano’s bass register, and such passages come across with wonderful force and clarity.
For the sequence of 24 keys, she adopts the same order as Chopin did for his Preludes (and Pierre Rode in his 24 violin Caprices). But the major and minor keys mean something rather different to Auerbach. Sometimes the key is only tenuously suggested (F sharp major); sometimes we’re half-way through the piece before it’s established (C major). On other occasions the tonal centre may be clear but the mode less so (B major). Or we come across naïve, straight-forward tonal material, subverted by unusual timbre or an ‘alien’ harmonic context (G major).
Auerbach’s music is eclectic, in places referential (F sharp minor, with its echoes of Mussorgsky and the Mozart K488 Concerto), but put together with tremendous passion and imagination. And if some devices tend to recur over and over again (wide separation of the pianist’s hands, thumping repeated bass notes, pieces that begin with great energy which then runs out to create a sense of emptiness), the way she welds so many memorable moments into a convincing extended sequence shows a real composer at work. We’re likely to hear a lot more of her. (Duncan Druce / Gramophone)