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Press on Lera Auerbach's Requiem in Dresden

Press on Lera Auerbach's Requiem "Dresden – Ode to Peace" with the Staatskapelle Dresden and the Saxon State Opera Choir Dresden on 11 February 2012 at the Frauenkirche in Dresden:

Excerpt from ‘Deutschlandfunk’ – 12.02.2012
by Georg-Friedrich Kühn

This is already Lera Auerbach's third requiem. The Russian-Jewish composer with Austrian roots, who today lives in America, has already written a Russian requiem and one for a poet.
"Death has always been in my thoughts," she says. Her nanny often took her along to the cemetery. She has always felt death to be "very present." This Requiem for Dresden, however, was to be something special. On the evening prior to the world premiere, she stated:
"I wanted to write a very unusual requiem. This was my thought from the very beginning, to write about hope. I didn't only want to honour the dead, but also to orientate myself on the living. And the important question that I wanted to raise is the future: what are our possibilities in the future? That is why it bears the subtitle 'Ode to Peace.' And that is why I have also included other texts that are not normally found in a requiem."
Auerbach intentionally dispenses with women's voices. War is or was primarily a male preserve, she says. Her musical language is above all songlike, less dramatic than her last opera "Gogol," premiered in Vienna to much applause. The music often seems to float in the cupola of the Frauenkirche. Whether avant-garde or not - this is of no concern to Auerbach. To her, the music of the 1950s and 1960s is historical.

Excerpt from ‚Sächsische Zeitung’ – 12.02.2012
by Karsten Blüthgen

The music rose up, delicately and almost seamlessly, behind the sound of church bells dying away. Men's voices and an orchestra rich in colours were deployed for a devotion in the form of a requiem lasting a good hour - for settings of old and new prayers and the invocation "Lord, have mercy" in 40 languages. Lera Auerbach made the decision to believe that if she is writing a requiem in which peace reigns between the nations and religions, and if thousands hear it on Saturday in Dresden's Frauenkirche and again today and tomorrow at the Semperoper, then this peace must also be feasible in real life.

Excerpt from ‚Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten’ – 13.02.2012
by Alexander Keuk

Auerbach's Requiem is not only a work of contrasts as regards its timbres; the texts and musical means also reveal a complex, dialectical aspiration throughout the entire work. It is not only a work for the people of Dresden that has been created; it attempts to connect world religions and world views within the liturgical framework of the requiem.
Auerbach's language is influenced by many traditional melodic and contrapuntal characteristics; she reaches the public through catchy motifs such as the "Dresden Amen." A specifically Jewish tone is often integrated into the harmonic and melodic language, unfolding freely and naturally, as in the "100th Psalm."

Excerpt from ‚Berliner Morgenpost’ – 13.02.2012
by J.S.

This approximately 80-minute work allows death and resurrection, mourning and hope to become present. It provides moments of the most profound inner reflection, thanks to supernaturally beautiful passages for the boys' choir; mourning is given a moving voice and listeners are made to sit up and take notice with chimes, tympani rolls and sharp attacks in the brass instruments.

Excerpt from ‚nmz-online’ – 13.02.2012
by Michael Ernst

Lera Auerbach searched for multiple references to the location and history. She found them and created sound material that is quite sacral; it lives from formal quotation and also makes clear use of adaptations. At times it is a bit unsettling, making an effect that is more aloof than truly conciliatory; at other times it is vociferous and full of accusation, resonating out of the horror with shrillness; at still other times, it makes very abrupt contrasts. The composer has handled the conditions of the difficult acoustics well, with a relatively thin orchestral apparatus to which moments of chamber-music playing and razor-sharp solos are repeatedly added. Some unending echoes that continued to resonate in the cupola had a quite compelling effect.
The choral passages defining the Requiem - alongside the men of the State Opera Choir, two boys' choirs from London and New York were engaged for Dresden - also filled the temple (if not always with angelic purity) with purposeful consecration. The boy soprano Richard Pittsinger was especially outstanding, singing from the heart with incredibly clear charisma and considerable endurance. The Dutch countertenor Maarten Engeltjes conquered crystal-clear heights, creating unforgettable emotion together with the British baritone Mark Stone, who set penetrating contrasts. Vladimir Jurowski deserves the greatest respect for the way he navigated his way through the 18-part Requiem with the greatest care, balancing the choral and orchestral parts, linking them to each other, allowing them to stream forth into the performance space, at times violently with all the fervour of such faith-filled music and at other times almost like the secular floating of tulle. The conductor has worked with the Staatskapelle very successfully time and again, also conducting them in the difficult acoustics of this church; but with all his expertise especially in new music, he must have been treading on terrain here to which even he was unaccustomed. For Auerbach's music has a homogeneous effect just because - shown once again in this Requiem - it is not homogeneous. One could detect a definite emotion in the audience when they recognised the "Dresden Amen" - a moving succession of tones, already used by Wagner, Mendelssohn, Bruckner and Mahler - that the Kapelle composer took up more or less in succession to them, weaving it into her "Ode to Peace" in a most inspired way. It is no easy task to achieve something familiar in a world premiere.
In this Requiem, Auerbach's culture of memory also includes her new home city of New York and 11 September 2001. She will not allow such dreadful events to be forgotten.

Excerpt from ‚Die Welt’ – 12.02.2012
by Joachim Lange

The Russian-American composer Lera Auerbach, endowed with many talents and currently enjoying the success of her opera "Gogol" in Vienna, has expanded her large-scale Requiem into an Ode to Peace. Auerbach composed the work for the renowned Saxon orchestra as composer in residence.
Cosmopolitan as the prolific composer is, she does not only fill out the Frauenkirche up to the dome with the large choral and orchestral forces, but also has the world in its entirety pictured before her mind's eye. In the Kyrie, for example, the text is set with an almost papal eloquence in 40 languages at once with tympani and trumpets, without any fear of being influenced by the great models of the genre. The settings of central prayers of Christians and Jews are also self-assured in their utopian approach, as are those of Hindus, Buddhists and Moslems as well. The fact that one must read along in order to find one's bearings in the polyphonic, indeed mellifluous text in the space of the Frauenkirche is most likely part of the concept of a human utopia of harmony in the longing for peace.
Auerbach seeks to bridge the gap between the wound of Dresden and the present day. The so-called Dresden Amen, already used by Wagner in Parsifal, repeatedly appears. One also hears the text "Peace, Where God Dwells" by Dresden's own Christian Lehnert, engraved in the peace bell of the Frauenkirche. But there is also a reminiscence of 11 September 2001 with Father Judge's prayer.
Auerbach has composed symbolically charged music that perfectly fits the special performance space. The audience (who did not applaud in the church but observed a minute of silence) hardly resented the fact that she did not offer unsettling novelty but instead sought to make a direct effect with the entire impact of the orchestra and choir. There are, at any rate, only a few islands of calm reflection - such as "In “Silentium", which beguiles with simple melodies - in the layering of surging songs and of skilfully varied melodies pervaded by orchestral vehemence. Otherwise, high-pressure emotion dominates, always gaining new impetus through the orchestra and choir spurring each other on, leading again and again to a sweeping stream of sound.

Excerpt from ‚Neues Deutschland’ – 14.02.2012
by Martin Hatzius

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: to reconcile the entire burdensome legacy with the present time of the 21st century. This is to be understood in a double sense: in terms of formal language as well as conceptually.
Auerbach's composition dissolves traditional stylistic boundaries in favour of directly sensual movements of sound bearing witness to aesthetic obstinacy. It is as eclectic as it is original, as profoundly symbolic as it is highly subjective.
Auerbach is a New Yorker. When she heard about the black cloud of dust that sank over the entire environs after the collapse of the Frauenkirche on 15 February 1945, she must have thought about Manhattan in September 2001 in order to be able to comprehend the horror.
Auerbach's decision to have exclusively men and boys singing was also symbolically motivated, not formally-aesthetically. The composer wishes to integrate them into her musical art; it is their colleagues of the same sex, after all, who have primarily executed the deeds of killing in the wars through all of history. Whoever holds a violin in his/her hand instead of a weapon, according to Auerbach during a preliminary talk, is not suitable to be a murderer. This Requiem is carried by this hope of the reconciliatory power of art (which one can surely trace back to the founding credo of UNESCO).
The decrescendo in the final bars of the work leads to an oppressive silence: requiems in Dresden always end with a minute of silence instead of applause. It is a silence that vibrates with particular difficulty in the resonance body of one's own chest. But it is also a silence that one has to be able to afford. One can only afford it in peace, in prosperity. Lera Auerbach's Requiem is the work of an idealistically hoped-for harmonious future.

Excerpt from ‚Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ – 15.02.2012
by Jan Brachmann

Auerbach works musically with a well-chosen symbol: the "Dresden Amen." This liturgical formula from the local church service tradition was used by both Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in his "Reformation Symphony" (as an attempt of the enlightened Jewry to find a homeland in German cultural Protestantism) and Richard Wagner in "Parsifal" (as the programme of a "purification" of Christianity of its Jewish roots). It is in this twilight of utopia and doom that the "Dresden Amen" now appears in Auerbach's eighteen-movement Requiem.
The dramaturgically strongest moment takes place when, after movements of the greatest distress, the "Dresden Amen" appears at the fourteenth place like an island of consolation - in the sweetest, most Parsifal-like harmonisation, followed at once by an invocation of the guardian angel in Hebrew with the a cappella singing of the boys' choir.


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