Lera Auerbach: Twenty-Four Preludes for Violincello and Piano Op. 47
Commissioned by Tom and Vivian Waldeck in association with the Caramoor International Music Festival.
Dedicated to John Neumeier
“Re-establishing the value and expressive possibilities of all major and minor tonalities is as valid at the beginning of the twenty-first century as it was during Bach's time, especially if we consider the esthetics of Western music and its travels in regard – or disregard - to tonality during the last century. The Twenty-Four Preludes for Violoncello and Piano follow the circle of fifths, thus covering the entire western tonal spectrum.
By writing this work, I wished to create a continuum that would allow these short movements to be united as one single composition. Looking at something familiar yet from an unexpected perspective is one of the peculiar characteristics of these pieces - they are often not what they appear to be at first glance.
When I think of these violoncello and piano preludes, I compare them to the lake Inyshka in the Urals Mountains, where my family would vacation during the summers of my childhood. The lake looked peaceful, but I knew it was dangerous as it had a double bottom. According to the legend, Emelian Pugachev buried his treasures in this lake, but everything was lost, as the treasures sank into the deep hidden level below the visible ground.
A musical gesture that may seem simple - becomes multi-layered, not quite real or even grotesque because of its surrounding. I employ different musical styles, but this poly-stylism is not a goal in itself but rather an attempt to explore our own kaleidoscopic time full of contradictions, with its madness, loneliness, brutality and aching nostalgia for lost innocence.
At the end of the last prelude, themes from each of the twenty-four preludes are presented as a continuous stream of consciousness, as if combined in a quick glance, and tonality is once again lost in this mad run, surrounded by the apocalyptic chords of the piano.
The Twenty-Four Preludes for Violoncello and Piano, in their full concert version, received their world premiere at the Caramoor Music Festival in the summer of 2008, almost nine years from their inception. Throughout these nine years, these preludes have gone through various transformations and individual preludes from this cycle have been performed in concert halls around the world. Preludes were also choreographed, in a slightly different order and with some additional music, by John Neumeier - to whom they are dedicated, - and performed by the Hamburg State Ballet for the ballet production ‘Preludes CV’ in Hamburg and Baden-Baden.”