Susanna Stefani Caetani
Born in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on the border of Siberia, Russian-American creator and performer Lera Auerbach is a composer, pianist, conductor, poet and visual artist. Thanks to her Renaissance approach to creation and art, Lera is one of today’s most sought after and exciting creative voices in the art world.
Lera Auerbach’s intelligent and emotional style has connected her to audiences around the world both as a composer and as an interpreter. Her playing and conducting completely reflect the special and unique personality she has as a composer. Her feeling for Mozart, Mussorgsky, Liszt and Shostakovitch makes her playing and conducting an exceptional experience for her audience, as well as her music colleagues. Her knowledge of the whole piano and symphonic repertoire makes each of her concert programs a very special journey: she likes to introduce one of more of her own works into her programs which, in that special context, reinforces her vision of the music of other composers present in the same event. In March 2018, Lera played Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in San Francisco and a new work around “Nijinsky Pictures”, as well as other projects.
Lera's mother was a piano teacher, and many of her ancestors had also been musicians. Lera began composing her own music at an early age; she later told an interviewer, "I was born to do this, to work in art... I had this feeling when I was four and I had it when I came to New York...". She received permission to visit the United States on a concert tour in 1991; although she spoke no English, she decided to defect so she could stay in the country to pursue her music career. Unable to afford subway fares, she used to walk more than a hundred blocks every day to study at the Manhattan School of Music. Auerbach subsequently received her degrees in piano and composition from the Juilliard School, where she studied piano with Joseph Kalichstein and composition with Milton Babbitt. Her graduate studies were supported by The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. She also graduated from the piano soloist program of the Hochschule für Musik Hannover.
In May 2002, Auerbach made her Carnegie Hall debut performing and conducting her own “Suite for Violin, Piano and Orchestra” with violinist Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica. She has appeared as solo pianist at such venues as the Great Concert Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Tokyo's Opera City, Lincoln Center, Herkulessaal, Oslo Konserthus, Chicago's Theodore Thomas Orchestra Hall and the Kennedy Center.
Her work as a composer is championed by today’s leading performers and Lera has made music with most of them together on stage, from the keyboard, including violinists such as Gidon Kremer, Leonidas Kavakos, Vadim Gluzman, Hilary Hahn, Vadim Repin, Daniel Hope, Julian Rachlin, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Dmitry Sitkovetsky; violists like Kim Kashkashian and David Aaron Carpenter; cellists such as Alisa Weilerstein, Gautier Capuçon, Alban Gerhardt, David Finckel, Joshua Roman, David Geringas, Ani Aznavoorian, Wendy Warner, and Narek Hakhnazaryan; and singers like Zoryana Kushpler, Natalia Ushakova, Martin Winkler, Nikita Storojev and Stella Grigorian, among many others. Auerbach has written eight string quartets that have been championed by the Tokyo, Borromeo, Parker, Jasper, Ying, Peterson, Artemis, Granados and RTÉ Vanbrugh string quartets.
Auerbach’s works for orchestra are performed by the world’s leading conductors, including Christoph Eschenbach, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Vladimir Spivakov, Neeme Järvi, Vladimir Jurowski, Charles Dutoit, Andris Nelsons, Andras Keller and Osmo Vänskä.
Choreographers and stage directors such as John Neumeier, Aszure Barton, Goyo Montero, Terence Kohler, Sol León, Paul Lightfoot, Medhi Walerski, Reginaldo Oliveira, Christine Milietz, and John La Bouchardiere have staged Auerbach’s ballets and operas, which have been produced in major locations on every continent, including the Hamburg State Opera, Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, New York’s Lincoln Center, the National Ballet of Canada, the National Ballet of China, the Royal Danish Theatre, the Nuremberg State Theatre, the Finnish National Theatre, Moscow’s Stanislavsky Theatre, the Netherlands Dance Theatre, and the San Francisco Ballet.
In 2015, Ms. Auerbach was composer-in-residence at the Trans-Siberian Art Festival and the Rheingau Musik Festival in Germany. She has been composer-in-residence with many orchestras and music festivals, including the Staatskapelle Dresden (Germany), São Paulo Symphony (Brazil), Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa (Japan), Concerto Budapest Symphony Orchestra (Hungary), New Century Chamber Orchestra (USA), Verbier Festival (Switzerland), Trondheim Festival (Norway), Marlboro Festival (USA), MusikFest Bremen (Germany), Lockenhaus Festival (Austria) and Pacific Music Festival (Japan).
Auerbach is equally prolific in literature and the visual arts (especially painting and sculpting) and incorporates these forms into her professional creative process, simultaneously expressing ideas visually, verbally, and through music. She has published three books of poetry in Russian and her first English-language book, “Excess of Being” – in which she explores the difficult forms of aphorism – was published by Arch Street Press in 2015. Her visual art has been included in several exhibitions and, in 2013, her first solo exhibition was presented in Norway. Her paintings are often exhibited at performances of her musical work and have been reproduced in magazines, CDs and books.
Ms. Auerbach is a long-established poet, and was named Poet of the Year in 1996 by the International Pushkin Society in New York. Her poetry and prose have been included in various anthologies and high school textbooks. She is the author of several librettos and is a regular contributor to the Best American Poetry blog, in her column The Trouble Clef. In recent years, Gerard Depardieu, Sergei Yursky and Evgeny Kissin have recited her poems in performances. Sergei Yursky also recorded a CD of poetry from her book, “Stairs to Eternity” and wrote the foreword for her “Hanover Notebooks.”
Auerbach often gives poetry readings (in Russian and English), presentations and talks, as well as master classes on performance and composition, including those at Harvard University, the University of Michigan, the Cleveland Institute, the Open Society Institute in New York, Tokyo University, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, The Music Center of Budapest, Hungary and the poetry festival of West Cork, Ireland, as well as music festivals in Verbier, Aspen, Marlboro, Sapporo, Trondheim and others.
Auerbach has written two operas. Her opera, “Gogol” – for which she wrote both libretto and music–was commissioned by the Theater an der Wien in Vienna and received its critically acclaimed premiere in 2011. This occasion marked the first time a major opera written by a female composer was produced in Vienna. Her ground-breaking sensory-immersive a cappella opera, “The Blind”, has been performed in Germany, Norway, Russia, the United States and Austria.
Auerbach has enjoyed a long-standing collaboration with renowned choreographer John Neumeier. Together they have created three highly popular ballets: “Tatiana”, “The Little Mermaid”, and “Preludes CV”. The most recent, “Tatiana” (a re-interpretation of Pushkin’s “Evgeny Onegin”), premiered in 2014, through a joint commission by the Hamburg State Opera in Germany and the Stanislavsky Theatre in Russia. “The Little Mermaid”, was the winner of a 2012 ECHO Klassik award for Best Music DVD. It also received two Golden Mask awards and has been performed over 300 times worldwide. Auerbach’s first collaboration with Neumeier, “Préludes CV”, was recently revived to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Hamburg Ballet.
Ms. Auerbach has also collaborated with the Netherlands Dance Theatre and its choreographers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot on “Shine a Light”; with Goyo Montero on “Don Juan” and “Faust” for the Staatstheater Nürnberg; with Azure Barton on “Watch Her” for the National Ballet of Canada; with Tim Plegge on “Momo” and Reginaldo Oliveira on “Mythos” for the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe; and with Terence Kohler on four ballets: “Heroes” for the Munich State Ballet, “Take Your Time” for the Chinese National Ballet, “11:11” for the Flanders National Ballet and “Cinderella” for the Finnish National Ballet.
Other recent highlights include Auerbach’s oratorio, “In Praise of Peace”, commissioned for the 20th anniversary of the Verbier Festival, the multilingual “Requiem—Dresden Ode to Peace” for the Staatskapelle Dresden, the string symphony “Memoria de la Luz”, her Russian Requiem, three violin concertos, a double concerto for violin, piano and orchestra, Symphonies No.1 “Chimera” and No.2 “Requiem for a Poet”, “Gallows Songs” for chorus and saxophone quartet, and several symphonic poems: “Post Silentium”, “Eterniday” and “Dreams and Whispers of Poseidon”.
Auerbach has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Hindemith Prize, the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, the German National Radio prize and the ECHO Klassik award, among others.
From 2007-2012 Auerbach was a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Today, she serves the WEF as a Cultural Leader, giving presentations around the world on Borderless Creativity. in 2015, the LeraArt Foundation was established in her name, which seeks to create an artistic paradigm for composers through its “Modern Renaissance” project.
Her works as a composer are published exclusively by Sikorski in Germany and her catalogue presents more than 100 works for orchestra, opera and ballet, as well as choral and chamber music
Her music is available on Deutsche Grammophon, Nonesuch, BIS, Cedille and other labels.
"Auerbach is a Renaissance woman, excelling as pianist, composer, artist and poet. Her texts have a universal dimension, rejecting religious dogma in favor of global spirituality.” (Gramophone)
"She is a virtuoso in a long line of great Russian pianists. But she is more than just a pianist" (The Japan Times)
"A Pianistic Powerhouse... a fine balance of sensitivity and virtuosity" (Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post)
"Lera Auerbach's performances are like Rachmaninov's, years ago... like her predecessor, Auerbach plays with formidable technique and has a penchant for the dramatic. There the similarities end. Auerbach reaches for more than catchy melodies and romantic sweep". (Frederick Kaimman, Home News Tribune).
"Her versatility is almost unbelievable...She is a passionate pianist with huge amounts of temperament, a natural composer and performer, quick to absorb and utilize everything around her." (The New York Times)
"I have known Ms. Lera Auerbach for years, and have been in a constant state of amazement at her actual genius." (David Dubal, Vladimir Horowitz's biographer)
"Crackling virtuosity" "...Intense, Poetic..." (David Hall, Stereo Review)
“Lera Auerbach, born in 1973 in Chelyabinsk, living in New York since 1991, a composer with a universal understanding of art - she writes poetry too, and painting whilst composing seems for her to belong quite naturally to the musical creative process - has created a composition virtually without precedents. She approached this task with an unbiased naturalness that is difficult to attain. Her artistic goal is as high as the heavens.” (Neues Deutschland)
“Here, again, one encounters music at its most deeply personal, realized through an equally deep understanding of the grammar and logic keyboard composition. My only regret is that there is so much potential for expression in this music that it deserves performances by other pianists, as well as Auerbach herself. The time for Auerbach’s presence on more Piano recitals is definitely overdue.” (San Francisco Examiner)
Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition
2 Preludes for Cello & Piano, Opus 47
Interview in Verbier
Schumann, Symphonic Etudes
Schnittke, Concerto Grosso n° 6
Schumann Thema and ext. variat.
Mozart, Piano Concerto in D minor
Cadenza Mozart Piano Concerto Kv.466
Prokofiev, Sonata n° 2
Hilary Hahn speaking with Lera
Liszt, Sonata in B minor
Auerbach Violin and Piano Sonata
S. Prokof'ev, Sonata n° 2 in D minor
M. Musorgskij, Pictures at an Exibithion