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ECM New Series 2375 

Kim Kashkashian introduces a duo with Russian composer-pianist Lera Auerbach. Their first collaborative recording features Auerbach’s viola and piano version of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes op. 34, and Auerbach’s own, darker, sonata for viola and piano, Arcanum. The musicians first met at Switzerland’s Verbier Festival in 2010, although Auerbach had long been aware of Kashkashian’s recordings, and the “quality of life-or-death-intensity to her performing, which is rare and wonderful.” Arcanum, accordingly, was written for Kashkashian. Its title, the composer explained in a recent interview, “means ‘mysterious knowledge’: I was fascinated by the inner voice within each of us, some may call it perhaps intuition, some maybe guided meditation, but there is some knowledge that we have, which we may not necessarily verbalize or rationalize. This knowledge allows us to see the truth, to be guided, to seek answers.”

Of Auerbach’s roles as composer and performer in this programme, Kim Kashkashian notes that “Lera performs any piece of music as if she had composed it: she has a way of understanding the perspective of a piece of music, its structure, its character and the colors that go with it.”

Dmitri Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes for piano (1933) gained renewed popularity through Dmitri Tsyganov’s transcriptions of some of them for violin and piano. Lera Auerbach first turned her attention to violin/piano transcriptions of the preludes Tsyganov had not reworked. In 2008, she set the full cycle for cello and piano, two years later creating a version for viola and piano intended, she said, as a contrasting partner piece to the Sonata for Viola and Piano op 147, Shostakovich’s sombre last work. “This way, violists could enjoy both sides of Shostakovich. The journey through the 24 Preludes gives so much opportunity for colours, for experimentation of different characters, for humour – there is a lot of humour in these Preludes.”


Kim Kashkashian, internationally recognized as a unique voice on the viola, was born of Armenian parents in Michigan. She studied the viola with Karen Tuttle and legendary violist Walter Trampler at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Since fall 2000 she has taught viola and chamber music at New England Conservatory.

Following Grammy Award nominations for several previous recordings, Kashkashian received a 2012 Grammy Award in the "Best Classical Instrumental Solo" category for Kurtág and Ligeti: Music for Viola. Kashkashian's recording, with Robert Levin, of the Brahms Sonatas won the Edison Prize in 1999. Her June 2000 recording of concertos by Bartók, Eötvös and Kurtág won the 2001 Cannes Classical Award for a premiere recording by soloist with orchestra.

In 2016, Kashkashian was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kashkashian has worked tirelessly to broaden the range of technique, advocacy, and repertoire for the viola. A staunch proponent of contemporary music, she has developed creative relationships with György Kurtág, Krzysztof Penderecki, Alfred Schnittke, Giya Kancheli, and Arvo Pärt, and commissioned works from Peter Eötvös, Ken Ueno, Thomas Larcher, Lera Auerbach, and Tigran Mansurian.

As a soloist, she has appeared with the great orchestras of Berlin, London, Vienna, Milan, New York, and Cleveland, and in recital at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, Kaufmann Hall, New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, as well as in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris, Athens, and Tokyo.

She is a founding member of Music for Food, an initiative by musicians to fight hunger in their home communities.

Kim Kashkashian has been an ECM recording artist since 1985.


Lera Auerbach is a composer, concert pianist, writer, painter and sculptor. She has published more than 100 works for opera, ballet, orchestral and chamber music, and performs as concert pianist throughout the world. Her work is championed by leading artists, conductors, stage directors and choreographers, with recent works staged by the San Francisco Ballet, Stanislavsky Theater, Hamburg Opera, Theatre an der Wein, National Ballet of China, Finnish National Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Netherlands Dance Theater, Semperoper and Staatskapelle Dresden, and New York’s Lincoln Center. Lera is a regular contributor to the Best American Poetry blog, has published three books of poetry and prose in Russian, and is the author of several librettos. In 2015, Arch St. Press published Excess of Being, a book of aphorisms by Lera Auerbach.

Prizes for her works include two Golden Masks and the Hindemith Prize. She holds degrees from the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media and The Juilliard School, where she received the P. and D. Soros Fellowship. The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, selected Lera Auerbach in 2007 as a Young Global Leader and in 2014 as a Cultural Leader, where she lectured on borderless creativity, a topic that she also presented at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, the Open Society Institute and other venues.

For more information: http://mediaresources.leraauerbach.com

Arcanum is Lera Auerbach’s first recording for ECM New Series.

CD booklet includes excerpts from an interview with Kim Kashkashian and Lera Auerbach, and liner notes by Anselm Cybinski, in German and English.

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