Auerbach's talents fit ProMusica's new venture

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Pianist and composer Lera Auerbach will be featured -- in both capacities -- in concerts with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra Saturday and Sunday, April 5-6, at the Southern Theatre. Tickets are $10-$49. Visit promusicacolumbus.org.

There was a time when ProMusica Chamber Orchestra's "Composer/Performer Project" might not have seemed so novel.

Which is kind of the point.

Lera Auerbach will join ProMusica in its first such program this weekend. She will be a guest performer -- on Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 -- as well as featured composer, as the orchestra will perform her Eterniday.

"At one time this would not have raised any eyebrows but have been the norm," Auerbach told The Beat.

"But there is a gap, especially in the second half of the 20th century."

"This project is an effort to showcase composers of today as not only creators of work, but also soloists in their own right," ProMusica Executive Director Janet Chen said.

"We are trying to offer a new and fresh perspective to our audiences on composers, and (are) so thrilled that Lera will be the first to be featured."

Auerbach started composing almost as soon as she began playing the piano.

"I think I knew what I wanted (to do with the rest of my life) when I was 4 years old. I was composing from a very young age. Maybe one day I will work (those early compositions) into a suite."

The Russian-born artist has made her home in the U.S. since the age of 12. She studied at the Juilliard School and made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2002. She has performed as a solo pianist in the U.S., Russia, Japan, Norway, Germany and beyond, and is the recipient of a number of prizes and medals.

Her compositions, from chamber music to orchestral settings, ballets and choral works, have been commissioned and performed by artists and ensembles around the world. ProMusica premiered an Auerbach commissioned work in 2008. She recently was composer-in-residence at Germany's Staatskapelle Dresden and serves as resident composer for a number of ensembles, including the New Century Chamber Orchestra.

Eterniday premiered in 2010. The piece's full title is Eterniday (Homage to W.A. Mozart) for Bass Drum, Celesta and Strings. Auerbach said the piece features bass drum as a result of her desire to incorporate the sound of a heartbeat into the work.

"I started with a string bass, but it wasn't the same. I needed something physical. The bass drum, if it's played softly, you may not even hear it -- but you can feel it."

That her composition is a tribute to the composer whose work she will perform in the same concert creates a thematic thread for the program.

"It's my favorite Mozart concerto. I have written the cadenzas for it. It's a nice connection."

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