A New Discovery

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One of the cool things about the cultural arts scene in Chattanooga is that both artists and audiences alike actively seek out new works. While there is a definite appreciation for the classics, there is a healthy appetite for something new, something dangerous, and something that pushes the core of the human soul to the edge and brings it back safely.

Chatting with my stand partner Josh Holritz, Associate Concertmaster of The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, I couldn’t help but feel this kind enthusiasm and excitement for a newer piece for violin by composer, Lera Auerbach.

It is a fascinating story and he was kind enough to share the behind the scenes journey of his discovery, experiences, performances and recording.

~ Holly Mulcahy

A New Discovery

By Josh Holritz

Isn’t it fun to discover new things? Perhaps you’ve recently come across a new recipe, restaurant, song, or band. Whatever it may be, when you find that new thing it can really get you excited and maybe even a little obsessed. You have to let everyone know about your new discovery which of course means multiple tweets and posts for several days.

That’s exactly how I felt when I discovered the composer Lera Auerbach. I was in my second year of doctoral studies and was looking for a recently composed piece for unaccompanied violin to round out an upcoming recital. I had been given some suggestions by friends and teachers, but hadn’t found anything that I felt really fit my program. One night I was listening to various recordings of solo violin works on Spotify and came across a fantastic album recorded by soloist Vadim Gluzman.

One of the pieces on the album was entitled Par.ti.ta by Lera Auerbach. I pushed play and was immediately drawn in by what I heard. My wife Kristen, who was sitting across the room, looked up from her computer and asked “Who is that?!” I told her and she replied “Wow, I like it!” I had to agree. I began clicking on the various movements of the piece and within a few minutes had decided that this was definitely the piece for my upcoming recital.

I wanted to know more so I started listening to other albums of her music. The more I listened the more I wondered why I had never heard of Lera Auerbach before. I looked up her website and saw some very impressive accolades for a composer who is only in her early forties.

She has composed for almost every instrumentation including solo works, chamber music, orchestral works, opera, and ballet. I was amazed to discover that in addition to composing she also maintains a busy performance schedule as a pianist. To my surprise I also learned that she creates visual art in the areas of photography, painting, and sculpture. Oh, and she’s a poet too.

After performing Auerbach’s Par.ti.ta on my recital, I was officially hooked. I knew that I had to study and perform more of her music. I put together a proposal for my doctoral committee and decided to record Auerbach’s set of 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano, Op. 46 for my dissertation. I had never undertaken a recording project of this size before (the entire set of preludes is about an hour of music) but was excited to jump in. I was fortunate enough to have Greg Hankins, a very talented and fun pianist, as my partner in the project. Toward the end of 2013 we began to work through the preludes together.

We exchanged ideas, talked about tempos and phrasing, and shared little exciting details in the music that we had found along the way. At least once in every rehearsal one of us would say “This music is amazing!” A few months later we recorded the preludes and ended up with a very exciting final product.

I could write for quite a while about Auerbach’s music (well, actually I did and if you are interested there is a dissertation somewhere out there with my name on it), but in short I would say her music explores the entire range of human emotion. It is intense, beautiful, dark, unsettling, full of extremes, surprising, colorful, creepy, and even twisted at times. To listen to her music is to experience something quite unique. And I would encourage you to do just that: listen to her music. Go and have your own discovery of Lera Auerbach. You won’t regret it!

If you happen to find yourself in Chattanooga, TN on February 5, I invite you to come to the Hunter Museum of American Art and hear me perform Auerbach’s Par.ti.ta. I would love to meet you and hear about your experience with her music. Also if you would like to hear some of the preludes from my dissertation, you can visit my website at joshholritz.com.

About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra. She spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival. Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.
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