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Early life and education
Auerbach was born to a Jewish family in Chelyabinsk, a city in the Ural Mountains bordering Siberia. Her mother was a piano teacher, many of whose ancestors had also been musicians. Lena began composing her own music at an early age; she later told an interviewer, "I was born to do this, to work in art... I had this feeling when I was four and I had it when I came to New York....". She received permission to visit the United States on a concert tour in 1991; although she spoke no English, she decided to defect so she could stay in the country to pursue her musical career. Unable to afford subway fares, she walked more than a hundred blocks each day to study at the Manhattan School of Music. Auerbach subsequently earned degrees in piano and composition from The Juilliard School, where she studied piano with Joseph Kalichstein and composition with Milton Babbitt. Her graduate studies were supported by The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. She also graduated from the piano soloist program of the Hochschule für Musik Hannover.
Auerbach made her Carnegie Hall debut in May 2002, performing her own Suite for Violin, Piano and Orchestra with violinist Gidon Kremer conducting the Kremerata Baltica. She has appeared as solo pianist at such venues as the Great Concert Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Tokyo's Opera City, Lincoln Center, Herkulessaal, Oslo konserthus, Chicago's Theodore Thomas Orchestra Hall and the Kennedy Center.
Auerbach's compositions have been commissioned and performed by a wide array of artists, orchestras and ballet companies including Gidon Kremer, the Kremerata Baltica, David Finckel, Wu Han, Vadim Gluzman, the Tokyo, Kuss, Parker and Petersen String Quartets, the SWR and NDR symphony orchestras, Berg Orchestra, and the Royal Danish Ballet. Auerbach’s music has also been commissioned by and performed at Caramoor International Music Festival, Lucerne Festival, Lockenhaus Festival, Bremen Musikfest and Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.
A new commission by The Royal Danish Ballet, to celebrate Hans Christian Andersen's bicentenary, was Lera Auerbach's second collaboration with choreographer John Neumeier. The ballet is a modern rendition of the classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid and was premiered in April 2005 at the then newly opened Copenhagen Opera House.
Her Double Concerto for Violin, Piano, and Orchestra, Op. 40, was written in 1997, but not premiered until December 15, 2006, in Stuttgart by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrey Boreyko; the soloists were violinist Vadim Gluzman and pianist Angela Yoffe. The American premiere was on February 13, 2010, by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrew Constantine; the soloists were violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Benjamin Hochman.
In 2007, her Symphony No. 1 "Chimera" received its world premiere by the Düsseldorf Symphony. Other 2007 premieres included Symphony No. 2 "Requiem for a Poet" by Hannover's NDR Radio Philharmonic, as well as A Russian Requiem (on Russian Orthodox sacred texts and poetry by Alexander Pushkin, Gavrila Derzhavin, Mikhail Lermontov, Boris Pasternak, Osip Mandelstam, Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, Anna Akhmatova, Joseph Brodsky, Viktor Sosnora and Irina Ratushinskaya) by the Bremen Philharmonic with the Latvian National Choir and the Estonian Opera Boys Choir.
Auerbach's a cappella opera The Blind (based on a play by Maurice Maeterlinck) was recently performed in a controversial new production by John La Bouchardiere at Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, New York in July 2013, throughout which the entire audience was blindfolded.
Awards and recognition
In 2005 Auerbach received the Paul Hindemith Prize from the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival. In the same year she received the Förderpreis Deutschlandfunk and the Bremer Musikfest Prize; she was composer-in-residence in Bremen. And she is notable for being the youngest composer to be represented by the acclaimed music publisher, Internationale Musikverlage Hans Sikorski GmbH & Co. KG of Hamburg, Germany.
Main orchestral works
- Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 39 (1997–98) (1. River of Loss ; 2. Dialogue with Time ; 3. Wind of Oblivion ; Part 2, Dialogue with Time, can be performed separately as an orchestral piece with the piano being part of the orchestra)
- Double Concerto for violin, piano and orchestra, Op. 40 (1997)
- Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 56 (2000/2003)
- Suite Concertante for violin, piano and Strings, Op. 60 (2001)
- Serenade for a Melancholic Sea, for violin, cello, piano and String orchestra, Op. 68 (2002)
- Violin Concerto No. 2 in one movement, Op. 77 (2004)
- Dreams and Whispers of Poseidon, symphonic poem (2005)
- Symphony No. 1 Chimera, for large orchestra (2006) (last two movements can be performed separately as symphonic poem Icarus)
- Symphony No. 2 Requiem for a Poet, for mezzo-soprano, cello, choir and orchestra (2006)
- Russian Requiem (2007)
- Fragile Solitudes, Shadowbox for String Quartet and orchestra (2008)
- Eterniday, for bass drum, celesta and Strings (2010)
- Post Silentium, for orchestra (2012)
- Memoria de la Luz, String Symphony No. 1 (2013) (Arrangement of the String Quartet No. 2 Primera Luz)
- Sonata for Violoncello and Piano, op. 69 (2002) (ArtistLed 11001-2)
- 24 Preludes (BIS 2003)
- Tolstoy's Waltz (BIS 2004)
- Auerbach plays Mozart (ARABESQUE 2005)
- Ballet for a Lonely Violinist (BIS 2005)
- Preludes and Dreams (BIS 2006)
- Cetera Desunt, String Quartet No. 3 (CAPRICCIO 2006)
- Flight and Fire (PROFIL - Hänssler Classics 2007)
- Sogno di Stabat Mater (2005, rev. 2009) (Nonesuch 287228-2)
- "A Dream Fulfilled: Women who emigrated from the former Soviet Union are now making a significant mark in the U.S.", by Susan Josephs. Spring 2014 issue of Jewish Woman Magazine
- Die Zeit
- Carnegie Hall Schedule Publications 05.01.2002 Suite for Violin, Piano and Orchestra (Gidon Kremer, violin; Lera Auerbach, piano and Kremerata Baltica)
- Jerry Bowles: "The Total Package", Sequenza 21, Wednesday, August 10, 2005 http://www.sequenza21.com/2005/08/lera-auerbach-total-package.html
- Prelude February/March 2010 (Fort Wayne: Keefer Printing Company, 2010)
- Kurier "Gogol" als packende Schlachtplatte (in German) Kurier 5 December 2011
- Listening to a Disconnected Society / "The Blind", Lera Auerbach’s Opera, Confronts Isolation The New York Times 2013
- Lera Auerbach receives 2005 Hindemith Prize newmusicbox.org 5 August 2005
- Auerbach, Lera Sikorski
- Lera Auerbach World Economic Forum
- "The Very Last of Soviet Émigré Composers: Lera Auerbach" - 17-page article at Academia.edu; by Christoph Flamm, Professor of Applied Musicology at the University of Klagenfurt, Austria (free registration required)