Auerbach Dreams; Preludes

A neo-romantic following in illustrious footsteps – but treading too heavily

Author: 
Arnold Whittall

Auerbach Dreams; Preludes

  • (24) Preludes for Piano
  • (10) Dreams
  • Chorale, Fugue and Postlude

At 18, Lera Auerbach quit the then Soviet Union for America. Fifteen years later she is active as a poet as well as composer and pianist. Commissions and prizes come her way in abundance, and recordings are proliferating, so you’d expect the music, and the playing, to have plenty of personality and plenty of immediate appeal.

The 24 Preludes and Ten Dreams were all composed in 1999, and demonstrate the skill with which Auerbach has tapped into the vein of neo-romanticism that is as strongly appreciated in the States as it is in her native Russia. The Preludes, acknowledging the traditional major and minor tonalities, have roots in Debussy and Rachmaninov, moving from that base towards something that, at its best, is vaguely reminiscent of Poulenc or Prokofiev. The problem – at least if you don’t immediately find this amalgam winning and persuasive in 2006 – is that it’s very hard to bring such a style to life. Auerbach deals with it by adopting a manner which is, in the main, assertive, aggressive, full of pounding flourishes and repetitions which might work better if the playing were a little less emphatic, the recording a little less resonant.

Just occasionally, as in the sixth of the Dreams, we get music that is soft and sparse, and truly poetic. The rest of the time the anonymous idiom, notable for its lack of rhythmic fluency, has difficulty in working well even in pieces lasting just two or three minutes. But make no mistake, there’s obviously a market for this kind of product, and from what I’ve said you should have a fair idea of whether this music is for you or not.

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