Ilja Stephan Musikpublizist






Lera Auerbach - Ein Hohelied auf die tonale Musik
in deutscher Übersetzung veröffentlicht in: DIE WELT, 8.8.2005, Hamburg-Teil, S. 34.

You left Russia for the USA in 1991 at the moment the Soviet Union broke down. Why did you leave and why at this time?
Lera Auerbach: I left six month before the Soviet Union broke down. When I left I only went on a concert tour. I didn't mean to stay. I was still very very young and the first time away from my parents. I just thougth of going on a two week's concert tour through the United States. But I saw the opportunities the West offered. At that time it was still very difficult to leave the Soviet Union. There was still the Iron Curtain. So I felt if I would go back to Russia I would never get a chance to come back to the West. And I left without my family, without English, without money, without anything.

I was surprised to see that in the States Milton Babbitt was your teacher in composition. Babbitt is well known as a serial composer. In which way did he influence you?
Auerbach: I don't think he influenced me in any way. What I enjoyed in working with Milton was his perspective. He is not the kind of person who tries to impose his way of thinking. He has a very unique way of addressing and of understanding music in his own way. So to me it was always very fascinating when he analysed my scores because he analysed them from his perspective and found things I had no idea that they existed there. It was the perspective of someone speeking a totally differnt language.

But you still sticked to the musical language you learned in Russia?
Auerbach: In general yes. (laughs) I didn't start writing serial music.
Hindemith Preis
The Hindemith prize you are now being rewarded with went to Matthias Pintscher, Rebecca Saunders, Thomas Adès and Jörg Widmann in the years before. All composers who are about 30 years old now. What do you think distinguishes your generation from the generation before? Is there something special in this young generation of composers?
Auerbach: It is a very special time in music right now. In many ways a good time. It is probably the freest time in terms of composers being able to seek their own language without so much of a general tendency. It is not that there is no general current rigth now but there is so much more freedom of speaking your own language without concerning too much about the so called general language of the time.

There is no gereral language as far as I can see.
Auerbach: The signature of our time is that it is very polystylistic and allows everyone to reflect our time in his own way.

If there is such a great freedom nowadays why do you restrict yourself to the major-minor tonal language of the 19th century - for example in your preludes op. 46 (1999)?
Auerbach: I do not restrict myself in any way. Every time and every new style is a reaction to the previous time. What I am doing is actually truly modern. I see it as being free to express myself in a language that is free from limitations. If I feel it can be expressed by employing some of the previous techniques - it is a part of our time and I feel free doing it. I could employ basically the entire composition techniques that exist throughout western culture and to use them to express our own time.

But why express our time in terms of all the things that have been before?
Auerbach: Because that is what our time is about. Our time is combination and summary of all the other times. The only way one can really go on is by accepting it and reflecting it today. It's like a mirror. It's a combination of all that past generations. And I think that polystylistic quality is a sign of our time. That is why the many different directions of composers is caracteristic of our time.

But that would mean that there is nothing more about our time than what we recollect from what has been before. There would be no new quality about our time the times before didn't have.

Auerbach: Quite the opposite. I think there are infinite possibilities that have not been explored. Serialism, for example, is something that to me looks like a dinosaur. It was a very valuable experience at its time - something like a teenage rebellion. But right now I think it is very old. I find infinite musical possibilities in "old" music just like Stravinsky found great possibilities when he was working with music of Pergolesi. He found modern potential within the baroque language. And I think there are much more possibilities within so called tonal rather than a-tonal music. Tonal center is something that lies within human nature. It is based on a natural phenomenon -- on the overtone series, which is universal. And I think within the overtone series there are still many possibilities that are being discovered now and will be explored for centuries to come.

Besides serialism there are many other styles. You live in the USA what about Jazz or Minimal Music?
Auerbach: I think all of them have been very valuable and actually some of the techniques are employed in my music like Minimalism for example. But we now live in the 21st century and time goes on.

So you would say your music is the true music of our time?
Auerbach: Yes. Otherwise I wouldn't write it.

When I take your c-minor prelude op. 46 Nb. 20 for example which you prescribe "tragico". The idea of c-minor being connected with tragic feelings is an absolute typical idea for the 19th century music (Schubert's 4th or Beethoven's 5th Symphony).
Auerbach: The question here is a question of perception because for the preludes my goal was to create a look at something familiar, but seen through a different perspective. Very often in the preludes things are not what they seem. At the beginning you may feel you know where you are but at the end of the prelude, even though it may be short, you don't know it any longer. There is a sense of irony and sometimes of dislocation. Maybe it could be compared to some of Dalîs painting, when you see something very familiar but in a grotesque way and out of proportion. So it's about looking on something one might have experienced before but seeing it through different eyes. I think this is natural to life - because some of the memories we have, if we look back on them. - we may see them from both angles: through the eyes we had at that time and yet with a different understanding of the time past. There are multiple layers of meaning depending on the context. And so in the preludes, for example, the order is very important. If you take a prelude separate from its surrounding, it may have a different meaning.

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