Lera Auerbach arranges & performs 24 Preludes by Shostakovich

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COMPOSERS: Auerbach,Shostakovich
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Auerbach * Shostakovich
WORKS: 24 Preludes, Op. 34 (arr. Auerbach)
PERFORMER: Kim Kashkashian (viola), Lera Auerbach (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ECM 481 2322

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Lera Auerbach arranged Shostakovich’s Op. 34 Preludes for viola and piano since, she explains, the composer’s Viola Sonata ‘is a very late work, while the Preludes are an early work and very different. This way violists can enjoy both sides of Shostakovich.’ It was clearly also a convenient work to present alongside her Sonata for Viola and Piano, Arcanum, toured by Kim Kashkashian and Auerbach in 2013 when this recording was made.

Predictably, Shostakovich’s 24 pieces emerge with variable success, but Auerbach’s arrangements are so imaginative that only occasionally does one become aware of the music being divided between the two instruments: No. 14 in E flat minor, a dramatic and horrifying crescendo in its original guise, does not readily offer itself to duo arrangement, and is reduced to self-conscious melodrama in Auerbach’s necessarily contrived ‘solution’. Others, though, are strikingly successful, such as No. 17 in A flat major with the viola a husky-toned chanteuse to spare piano accompaniment.

Undoubtedly the main attraction, though, is Auerbach’s Sonata, the partnership between viola and piano more equal and richer in potential. Hauntingly beautiful, the Sonata at times appears a child of early Messiaen and Ravel in his most advanced harmonic style.

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Daniel Jaffé