“Scars, broken porcelain, and other preludes” [by Viviana Ramos]

“I believe that what we become depends on what our parents teach us in small
moments, when they are not trying to teach us. We are made of small fragments of wisdom.”

-Umberto Eco-


In a hyper-consumerist and capitalist society, stagnant in melodies of propaganda and cell phone notifications, of stickers oversaturated with brilliant colors, of signs, advertisements, purchases, sales, and programmed obsolescence, it is normal to get up in the morning, dizzy, confused, and break a coffee cup. If this happens, we automatically think “it doesn’t matter, I’ll buy another”. When breaking a coffee cup there are no major consequences, it’s true; if only it were that simple with the painful stories that shape part of our lives. Certainly, it’s not possible to erase or eliminate our memories and our lives as easily, all the memories and childhood recollections, losses, separations, sorrow, among other harsh experiences that we have all lived through. In this sense, the Japanese in the 15th century discovered a way to restore ceramic using lacquer dusted with gold, which has transformed into something more than a practice of craft, becoming a whole philosophy of life. In Kintsugi it is not about replacing, mending, or repairing something broken to conceal its defect or imperfection, but on the contrary, it transforms the object into something beautiful given its condition; celebrating its antiquity, history, trauma, defects. In this way, its transcendental symbolism finds in beauty a better aesthetic connotation based in values that are not replaced, without transforming its aesthetic essence, evoking the erosion of time on all things physical, the mutability of identity and the value of imperfection. In this same way, these twenty-four preludes for violin and piano by Lera Auerbach possess the fragility, and at the same time the edge and roughness, of small, broken porcelain fragments, which patience and love have reconstructed in new forms of art through the artisan fingers of Ksenia Nosikova and Katya Moeller: the Avita Duo.

These pieces throughout the years have been integrated into the repertoires and discography of artists like Gidon Kremer, Vadim Gluzman, Daniel Hope, Jacques Ammon, and Angela Yofee, among others. Unlike other works with cyclic structures, serials, and other preludes, perhaps the greatest charm that many of artists find in Auerbach’s works lies in the complex sound fused with the softness and newness of the American world and the powerful weight of Russian music. There, Mussorgsky appears at times, accompanying us to those landscapes that the composer takes us to through acoustic reminiscences. Another great Russian composer, Stravinsky, mentioned in his Poetics of Music that “one word or one syllable or a single sound. That goal which one tries to reach and does not reach. However, the road in between, that long road with an unknown end that we find with difficulty, is what moves us in the life of a creator”.

How right he was!. According to tradition, the poetic sensibility and cultural depths of these preludes are uncommon for this genre in general, almost technical exercises. The versatility and frequency with which they are interpreted reflect the preference of the interpreters for this series of pieces, given that they are particularly expressive. Therefore, the first, third, and eight preludes are very unique, with a subtle and rare beauty that at moments appears to float in a lunar weightlessness. In contrast, numbers four, five, and fourteen are impassioned gestures of tradition and pay homage to the great generations of virtuosos and concertos that have written for violin.
The dramatic structure and narrative that is found in these preludes cannot be thought of in this manner except by someone who also knows literature. Thus, the narrative tone is a connecting thread that guides us through these scenes, written for these characters: The violin and the piano. Those that know their Aphorisms published in “Excess of Being”, can feel at times the same sensation from these brief, concrete messages; very poetic and reflexive. In this way, we can say that these twenty microforms are small, poetic, musical ideas and yet they enter into complete parody in relation to their content, which explores the grand genres and sounds of Western classical music. Given here is a very interesting relation between content and form, that demonstrates technical control and a particular boldness that permits the composer to combine and mix artistic languages in unique and innovative forms.

As we know, the prelude is a short piece without an apparent defined structure or form that serves as an anticipation to “grand” musical forms. But in these preludes the work between content and form has been very fascinating from the gaze of those reviewing tradition and the great written forms for the two instruments of greatest importance in the literature of western concert music. The great thinker Marshall McLuhan once said that “the form of media is embedded in whatever message is being transmitted or transported, creating a symbiotic relation in that the media influences how the message is received.” In this particular case, the Avita Duo chose for these preludes a structure that minimizes their formal artistic-aesthetic presumptions, but in fact, the way their content is being played shows that these are wonderful pieces for violin and piano. It turns out then, in a very ironic metaphor, to address intimacy, autobiography, introspection, and the self. This synthesis of musical language seems to pierce the compositions written by Auerbach to these short preludes, where every one creates a chapter and all together they shape the story. Such is the concision that is achieved in this cycle, escaping technicalities, tradition, formality, and structural convenience.

In the summer of 1999, when this series was born from the mind and hands of Auerbach, it did not yet have the beautiful nuances, time, and vision that great artists have brought to it. Today, every prelude constitutes a piece of a past life, a story real or imagined, a distant sound of a whistled melody, a fragment of someone’s forgotten memory; it is an aphorism, it is a scar on the terrain of a body lying under the sun.

The complexity of accepting a new recording project with works that have been extensively addressed in music and in distinct interpretations supposes an incessant palimpsest exercise, where that revision of the gaze of others and the self lends complexity to its aesthetic transformation, giving it every time a new and greater value, like the pieces of ceramic in the Japanese Kintsugi technique.
Therefore, between the Avita Duo’s introspections and outbursts, we find ourselves in the vibrating and branching paths of the violin strings. In this pair, united by close ties — mother and daughter — Katya Moeller contributes with her violin to this new assemblage of sounds all the energy, determination, and spontaneity of her young age. Despite her youth, she has already been deemed worthy of important awards and national and international mentions. Her closeness to the compositions included in this disc provides newness and confidence, she brings skill to the pieces and a very enjoyable “natural” realness, succeeding in these pieces being perceived in a different way. There is a brutal intensity in the sound, which provides a very updated vision of the violin as the predominant classical instrument and the music that surrounds us today in general. The contemporary and transgressive gaze of youth is always an added value in a review or renewal of art. This revision incorporates particular nuances in the pieces, noting and emphasizing facets, ways of watching and listening that previously, perhaps, were not so evident as they are in this performance by the Avita Duo. With little more than ten years spent playing together, here they manage real moments of a modest, soft, colorful, lyricism that evokes visions of the great Russian ballets or the experiences that accompany the monochromatic images of silent movies. This can be felt in some of the pieces, like the sixth, seventh, and eighth. Also, in the eighth and ninth, the combination of the movements of the bow contrasts frequently with moments of pizzicato, where we go deep into flashes of folklore forgotten by “developed” societies.

These twenty-four preludes, quasi-aphorisms of music and language of the piano, leave us with a very literary and narrative taste that invites us to go on a stroll through those dense forests of the world of the composer and their many voices. Small haikus of being, that dwell between painful, subtle, melancholy bowstrings. These are the hands of the Avita Duo discovering a truly varied spectrum of colors. Certainly notable are the colors achieved by the piano, a percussive element that Ksenia Nosikova offers to us. The traces of Russian sound that emanate in this outstanding interpretation are unforgettable. The echoes that live in her piano at times take us to Christmas night from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and all of the magic that surrounds it. It appears to be something simple, but in reality it requires a high level of skill to play the range of nuances that these twenty-four preludes demand from the emotions and from the soul. Ksenia achieves it masterfully, spontaneously, genuinely, and fearlessly. She does this in such a degree that for the second part of these “miniatures”, in pieces sixteen and seventeen, we arrive at the sphere of spectralism, at dreams of loss or desolation.
Practically, the margin of sound blurs these preludes that stretch and cover time until the second structural part of the CD. After these very lively twenty-four preludes for piano and violin, we arrive at the fragmented world of “Oskolki”.
“Oskolki detstva” (Fragments of Childhood), was the original title of the biography published by Gidon Kremer in 1995. Maybe, this book so personal to Kremer was the principal source of inspiration for Auerbach to write her ten pieces for violin and piano of the same name. Sounds that fade, phrases that branch away, fragments that are forgotten. The in-tune sounds are replaced by aggressive clusters that paint an abstract, slightly figurative, surreal atmosphere, where just like the sounds, identity and memories seem to be lost, broken down. Their specters float in the air. There are no phrases, but only words, laments, doubts, uncertainty. But just like in life, not everything is pain and despair. Our own spirit, although at times in pain and defeated, pushes us forward, always toward the glow of hope. You can feel some of these moments, slight and suddenly transient, like the shadow of a cloud, but full of optimism and love for life.

We want this CD to arrive to us in the spirit of Kintsugi, a powerful metaphor of the importance of resistance, resilience, and our own love in the face of life’s adversities. Listening to the pieces is also a poetic way of healing wounds of the past and finding beauty in the scars they left behind. Beyond the ugly marks are the lines always reminding us of the experiences lived by us and by others. The path that we decide to follow from there depends on each of us, on how we can reimagine our future. Why not do it listening to this CD!?

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