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Flight And Fire - Lera Auerba / Ksenia Nosikova

Release Date: 08/07/2007 
Label:  Profil   Catalog #: 7064   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Lera Auerbach
Performer:  Ksenia Nosikova
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

AUERBACH La Fenice (Piano Sonata No. 1). Il segno. Memento mori . Fantasia. Images from Childhood Ksenia Nosikova (pn) PROFIL 7064 (64:31)

Entitled, “Flight and Fire,” this disc offers the stimulating fare of the piano music of the Russian composer, Lera Auerbach (born 1973). Auerbach seems to like to give works titles and then append their form in parentheses immediately thereafter, as Read more in Cetera Desunt (String Quartet No. 3) of 2006, a work memorably recorded by the Petersen String Quartet on Capriccio 71104, coupled with Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet and Auerbach’s arrangement of that composer’s Six Poems of`Marina Tsvetaeva , op. 143. She is coupled with Shostakovich on an intriguing disc entitled “Ballet for a Lonely Violinist” (BIS 1592), and although I have heard it, my acquaintance with it was merely in passing; BIS also offers Auerbach playing her own compositions (1462); and Walter Simmons gave an admirable précis of her achievements in his review of still another BIS disc, 1242 ( Fanfare 27: 6).

Auerbach writes with confidence. Her ear for sonority and pitch organization is clearly expert and, despite the dissonant nature of her harmonies, her music simply breathes beauty. In an interview reproduced with the present disc, she writes about letting her music go after she has composed it and how any work of art is greater than its composer.

The First Sonata dates from 2005. It comprises six movements, all short (the longest, the finale, is just under six minutes). My Fanfare colleague Colin Anderson provides the notes, and he leads the listener through the works admirably, lucidly clarifying the structure. Nosikova (a Moscow Conservatory graduate who further pursued her studies in Colorado before settling down to teach at the University of Iowa) plays with fingers of steel; yet she can turn her tone inwards at a moment’s notice, as in the quieter passages of the second movement. The elusive nature of the fourth movement is particularly spellbinding, while the concentration of the final Adagio religioso belies the studio conditions (the disc was recorded in Clapp Recital Hall, Iowa City, in May 2006).

Il segno (“The Sign”) dates from 2006 and, as Anderson points out, continues the sound and emotional world of the Sonata. The initial Adagio tragico is spare in texture, with many gaping registral spaces implying an unresolved emptiness. A buzzing Toccata (flawlessly played here by Nosikova) gives way to the insistent tolling bass of a Grave. The final Allegro begins in a rather grey fashion before igniting in intensity.

The Memento mori is a fascinating three-movement work. The first movement contains a canon at its heart (bookended by two sections called “Requiem”) before a flashback to childhood provides the middle section of the work as a whole. Here, all is shrouded in mist, and is so delicate that one is almost afraid that listening to it may cause it to disappear; only a more animated section entitled “Lets play grown ups” provides contrast. The final section is called “Adulthood—Memento mori,” and begins as a furious, bass-driven caricature of a wild dance. Nosikova’s technique is fully up to Auerbach’s demands, as is her expressive technique when it comes to the touching, slow final pages.

The Fantasia is from as early as 1986. It is a halting piece that seems to reflect the exploratory nature of Auerbach’s own thoughts. Finally, Auerbach’s answer to Kinderszenen , her own Images from Childhood (2000), a sequence of 12 short movements (the entire piece only lasts 12:30). There is the utmost charm on offer here—try the faux-Baroqueisms of the second, “What a Story!” Even the movement entitled “Quarrel,” lasting all of 26 seconds, is sweet. Desolation does rear its head in “After the War (The Field of the Dead),” the sixth movement. The effects of this movement last a while as it casts its shadow, only to be dispersed by the movements called “Stubborn” and “E-Creatures.” The final, delicate “Prayer” leaves the cycle with a distinct question mark hanging over it.

Fascinating listening. It is hard to imagine a disc that does greater service to Auerbach’s piano music.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano no 1, "La Fenice" by Lera Auerbach
Performer:  Ksenia Nosikova (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2006 
Length: 19 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Sonata for Piano no 2, "Il Segno" by Lera Auerbach
Performer:  Ksenia Nosikova (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2006 
Length: 14 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Fantasia for Piano by Lera Auerbach
Performer:  Ksenia Nosikova (Piano)
Images from Childhood by Lera Auerbach
Performer:  Ksenia Nosikova (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2000 
Memento mori by Lera Auerbach
Performer:  Ksenia Nosikova (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 

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