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Auerbach: Violin Concerto Review

From 22 January until 22 February 2004 Lera Auerbach was in Los Angeles, where she gave concerts, lectures and master classes during her activity as composer-in-residence with the American Youth Orchestra. The culmination of her stay was the world premiere of her First Violin Concerto on 22 February 2004. The soloist was Philip Quint, with the American Youth Orchestra conducted by Alexander Treger.

Truman C. Wang wrote an enthusiastic article in Classical Voice (February 2004):

Make no mistake, the American Youth Symphony is no kiddie orchestra. Gustav Mahlers titanic First Symphony requires an orchestra of enormous power whether in execution or in expression and received it from the AYS. Conductor Alexander Treger succeeded in bringing out the youthful exuberance in the many climaxes. Granted, the playing was not always sufficiently polished (the strings lacked softness and sheen in the waltzes and long slides), but the raw excitement and passion were definitely a plus. Following the tradition of celebrity guest artists on their annual gala concerts (last year was pianist Yefim Bronfmann), the AYS played the opening ceremonial fanfare, Sound the Bells, under John Williams with all the brassy brashness of a Hollywood movie score. Musically, it was pretty forgettable.

Equally bold and brashy was Lera Auerbachs Violin Concerto No. 1, commissioned by the AYS for this occasion. The complex, exotic harmonies recall the mystical Orientalism of Puccinis Turandot, particularly in the second movement, with its ghostly eerieness and spartan harmonic landscape. Much of the works emotional power is conveyed through the solo violin, superbly played by Philippe Quint, and features a soulful cadenza in the final movement (a brilliant touch) that emerges triumphant from the savage onslaught of the opening movement. It is a worthwhile work that deserves wider recognitioin.

Young and restless? Maybe. But what an exciting concert!

Truman C. Wang is editor of Classical Voice, whose articles have appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Pasadena Star-News and other Southern California publications.