Lera Auerbach, Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 28

February 1, 2020

Lera Auerbach (b. 1973)

Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 28, (1992/1996)

Lera Auerbach Living composer Lera Auerbach is a multi-dimensional creative force of nature. Composer, concert pianist, poet and visual artist, she was born in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on the border of Siberia. While on a concert tour of the United States in 1991, she defected and remained in New York to pursue an education and a subsequent career. Despite her lack of financial resources as well as her inability to speak English, Auerbach persisted, studying at the Manhattan School of Music and earning degrees in composition and piano from Juilliard. To date, she has composed a rather astonishing catalog of music including two operas, four symphonies, numerous concerti and, for chamber music, at least nine string quartets and five piano trios. Her commissions and collaborations with leading musicians and ensembles suggest that Auerbach is an important contemporary voice. She is also a published, award-winning poet as well as an exhibiting painter and sculptor.

Auerbach composed her first piano trio in the mid-1990s while still in her late teens and early twenties. Comprising three movements, it is vivid, accessible, skillfully crafted and powerfully affective. The brief first movement “Prelude” evokes both Bach and Shostakovich. A moderately paced, recurring theme in the manner of a passacaglia begins with the piano, at first tentatively tiptoeing until disrupted by sharp offbeats and syncopations. The strings join with a glassy, brittle tone produced by bowing close to the bridge. A back and forth exchange among the three parts leads to provocative, short sighs from strings that strikingly sound like seagulls. The central, slow movement is the longest. Titled “Andante lamentoso”, it features a deep, lyrical cello brooding over minimal and spacious piano figurations with occasional colorist effects from the violin. This hovering timelessness gives way to a bristling, motoric energy in the presto finale. Once again, the piano takes the lead with a driving theme and abruptly pounding chords quickly imitated by the husky strings in unison. A central, contrasting section seems to recall the atmospheric stasis of the lament leading to the isolated strings whispering and whistling in their highest ranges. The muscular presto drive slowly remerges as the music returns, full circle, to the prelude theme from the very beginning.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.