Lera Auerbach: A Multitasking Artist

Apr 18, 2017

It was just a couple of seasons ago that composer-pianist Lera Auerbach teamed up with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 and her work Eterniday (Homage to W.A. Mozart) for Bass Drum, Celesta and Strings.

Auerbach returns to Columbus this weekend, again in the role of composer-performer, with a work commissioned by ProMusica: A Twofold Dream – Concerto grosso No. 5 after W.A. Mozart’s K. 299/297c and K. 315. This time, she is the soloist in her own composition.

"Perfect Harmony" by Lera Auerbach
Credit Lera Auerbach

So what is she ... pianist or composer?

The answer is both—and so much more. Also on her business card is writer, poet, painter and sculptor. In fact, Gallery Shchukin in New York recently housed a month-long exhibition of her work.

One of her piano teachers may have unwittingly pushed her into this dual career by trying to stop it.

"I began playing piano and writing music when I was 4 years old. Soon my teachers presented me with a Solomonic dilemma: 'Do you want to be a composer or a concert pianist?' I was told that in our age of specialization one cannot be both a virtuoso performer and a serious composer, so I had better choose soon and focus.

When I was 12, I wrote my first opera, which was staged and toured in Russia. When I mentioned this opera to my piano professor—who was a wonderful teacher, by the way—he said rather sternly: 'I don't want to hear anything about it. I don't care what you do in your spare time as long as it doesn't take away from piano practice.' "

For her entire life, she has been pressured to choose one distinct career path, told you can't do it all—a belief with which she quietly but firmly disagrees.

Auerbach says visual arts have always been a passion, with each of her artistic endeavors unavoidably influencing the others.

Does she feel that she sets an example for other young artists, showing that they do not have to limit their creativity to one field?

Auerbach plays both the pianist and composer this weekend with ProMusica for a program called Sketches of Vienna. She and ProMusica perform the world premiere of A Twofold Dream on Saturday, April 22 and Sunday, April 23 at the Southern Theatre. Also on the program is Roses from the South by Johann Strauss Jr. and Franz Schubert's 10th Symphony.