A Collaboration Unlike Any Other with Composer Lera Auerbach

RSC Conservatory News

“Lera Auerbach’s music possesses that rare quality of being both boldly of our time, wildly inventive, and incredibly expressive while at the same time extremely accessible to audiences everywhere,” said RSC Interim Director Lindsey Robb.

As an internationally recognized composer, conductor, and pianist, Auerbach has collaborated with many world-renowned orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, and now she is coming to The Rivers School Conservatory.

Over the course of the last several months, Auerbach was writing a very special work in collaboration with RSC for this year’s 45th Annual Seminar on Contemporary Music for the Young taking place from April 5 through April 7. “RSC collaborates with the commissioned composer early on, when we start discussing the instrumentation for the work,” said Robb. “Ideally we seek a composition that fits with our most promising ensembles or soloists.” And this year’s commissioned work, Auerbach’s String Symphony No. 2 – Nox: Tenebrae Lucis, is proving to be a notably special collaboration as it involves students from The Rivers School, RSC ChamberMusicLab (CML) students, and musicians from A Far Cry and their fellowship program, all of which will be giving the world premiere of the newly commissioned piece. Auerbach, who has conducted some of the world’s leading orchestras, will be conducting String Symphony No. 2, bringing a completely collaborative performance experience for all musicians involved.

“It’s a beautiful collision indeed,” says CML Director Jason Fisher, who is also a founding member of A Far Cry. With this collaboration, which includes his colleagues at A Far Cry and the outstanding CML students, Fisher added: “I know there will be a dynamic synergy there, and the chance to work on a new work by—and to work with—a living composer of Auerbach’s global prestige is truly special for all of us.”

For several decades, the Seminar has been known for drawing together influential composers, who have revolutionized today’s music and compositional styles, and the local community through the commissioning of new, thrilling works. “We have had a glorious history of concerts from the beginning 45 years ago,” said Ethel Farny, who has been chairing the Seminar since 1994. “More composers write premieres each year through our small commission program, and for the last two years with a program engaging college student composers to be matched with RSC students.” Since the Seminar began in 1978, a long list of commissioned composers and guests have been involved including John Cage, Joan Tower, Matthew Aucoin, and recently Chen Yi and Andrew List. With its long-standing history, the Seminar continues to evolve by connecting student composers from local universities, such as Berklee College of Music, and this year Tufts University, with RSC students, providing more opportunities for students to perform world premieres and work with a composer.

Not many student musicians have the chance to collaborate with distinguished composers, but such an occurrence happens annually at RSC. “I definitely never had this kind of a unique opportunity when I was in high school,” says Fisher. “Our students are getting hands-on experience with music-making at a professional level, in a creative, inclusive chamber-music-minded setting.” Getting to work on a completely new, never-performed work is a gift and getting to collaborate with the composer makes the experience even more memorable.

“I have found that working on the newly composed piece is refreshing from an artistic standpoint,” said Nathaniel Jarrett, a CML student who is one of the musicians that will be premiering Auerbach’s String Symphony. As a violinist in CML, Jarrett has learned many valuable performance techniques, one of which is score studying, saying, “Understanding what moods and ideas the composer is trying to express through the small details helps me build my own interpretation while still complementing the composer’s intentions.”

Since its start 45 years ago, the Seminar on Contemporary Music for the Young has continued to fascinate and provide enriching experiences. Farny says that even the visiting composers hear the “exciting performances and realize that contemporary music is a vital part of The Rivers School Conservatory’s experience.” Although the repertoire and commissioned composers presented are different every year, Farny adds that, “What stays the same is the ability of teacher and student to choose creative music that will excite and engage our young students and allow them to present rich and innovative music to our audiences.” From the students and faculty who are performing, to the audiences that find themselves mesmerized by how surprising and captivating the music of today is, everyone involved in the Seminar is a part of its incredible history of celebrating composers and allowing students an opportunity to grow their artistic leadership skills through performance.

45th Annual Seminar on Contemporary Music for the Young
April 5-7, 2024
Bradley Hall, Rivera Recital Hall
Register here.