Auerbach, Shostakovich

COMPOSERS: Auerbach,Shostakovich
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Auerbach , Shostakovich
WORKS: Lonely Suite, Op. 70; Violin Sonata No. 2; Violin Sonata; Jazz Suite No. 1 (trans. Gluzman)
PERFORMER: Vadim Gluzman (violin), Angela Yoffe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1592
Still in her early thirties, the Russian-born, New York-domiciled Lera Auerbach – poet, novelist, piano virtuoso and prolific composer – seems to have it all in terms of success, not least because of the sustained interest of BIS records. Coming to her music for the first time, I am aware of a phenomenon, and am as yet uncertain of its significance. Her performances of her piano music hold nothing back and testify to a fabulous technique. This is music of emotional, or at least rhetorical, extremes: furious toccatas and frozen stasis, grandiose chordal explosions and wan little tunes tricksily harmonised. The sincerity is unquestionable; the only question is whether this is a sincerity of gesture or of substance.

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The Dies Irae haunts Auerbach’s 24 Preludes, as do some familiar pianistic formulae. Asserting the undimmed power of tonality, and drawing on Russian traditions (a word she apparently doesn’t like, preferring ‘continuities’) from Rachmaninov to Schnittke, she runs a gamut from near-pastiche to imperious proclamation: one feels a bit hectored at, and wants to take the music in small doses. To be fair, BIS’s rather boomy recording perhaps exaggerates a piano style that sometimes seems to have the sustaining pedal down all the time: bell-sounds and their overtones, the foundation of so much Russian music, make the air vibrate here.

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Vadim Gluzman’s violin disc, more naturally recorded, demonstrates the melancholi inventiveness of Auerbach’s unaccompanied Lonely Suite; and her Second Violin Sonata, begun in NY the day after the 9/11 atrocities, proves more thoughtful than some of the music the catastrophe inspired. Here Gluzman is joined by Angela Yoffe in a performance of real conviction. The piece is not programmatic, but rather a memorial, in the spirit of the Janácek Piano Sonata I.X.1905. But the centre of gravity of this recital is a magnificently eloquent and understanding performance of Shostakovich’s Violin Sonata, which as the years pass comes to seem one of the greatest of his late works. I wouldn’t quite put it above Oistrakh and Richter, but Gluzman and Yoffe infuse the music with an expressive glow that transcends its innate austerity. Gluzman’s own transcription of Shostakovich’s first Jazz Suite is a delightful filler. Calum MacDonald