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If you mix every colour of paint together, you end up with black. Similarly, the darkness in the music of Lera Auerbach (b. 1973) consists of every imaginable shade of colour, from pitch darkness to dazzling light. The composer thus captures the mercuriality of life and the human psyche. Her music sometimes also depicts a dance with the inescapable: the struggle against Fate, the inexorable passing of time, an unattainable dream – but always with black humour and a dark though starlit sky.


‘Many composers create something “beautiful”, outside human reality,’ according to the Delta Piano Trio, who worked hard with Auberbach in preparing for this album. ‘Instead, Lera’s music is raw as well as human. She never eases up on what she wants to express, which would rob the music of all its fervour.’

It was Auerbach’s own idea to call this album Milking Darkness. The Delta Piano Trio feels that it is a fitting description not only of her work as a whole but also of the intense effect her music can have.

Delta Milking Darkness cover hig res.jpeg


Genre : Classical 

Label : Challenge Classics (2023)
Catalogue: CC 72963
UPC: 0608917296327

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4-star review in Volkskrant! 

"In the Third Piano Trio the intensity of the three musicians is unprecedented too. They fall from wild dissonant madness into withdrawn contemplation, delicately reflecting the echoes of seemingly recognizable melodies."

De Volkskrant, 28-9-2023

Read the full article (in Dutch) here


Fanfare Magazine 

This collection of chamber music by Lera Auerbach is boldly eclectic in style, but not in any sort of clever or showy sense, rather in a way that always serves the expressive impulses of the composer. Her voice is dark, but often with a sly underlay of humor, in a characteristically modern Russian way (she was born in the Soviet Union in 1973, and came to America in 1991 to study at Juilliard). The album is named for the title of the solo piano work presented here, Milking Darkness. It is a compelling metaphor, suggesting the many shades of black that can be explored, in this case via a complex, expressionistic language of vivid emotional impact. The program opens with a work of equally diverse dramatic impulses, Lonely Suite – Ballet for a Lonely Violinist, but lightened by a sense of self-aware whimsy, even as Auerbach is very serious about the subject of loneliness. A solo violin explores six distinct visions of isolation, including boredom and fear, but also imaginary internal dialogs and questions.

Any sense of frivolity is absent from the Piano Trio No. 4, a nearly 20-minute work in one movement of almost nonstop distress. This may sound like a prescription for an unpleasant listening experience, but Auerbach’s writing is so intricate and original that it is hard not to be drawn in, a quality her work shares with the fascinating American composer Michael Hersch, or for that matter Dmitri Shostakovich. The engrossing work ends with quiet major-key harmonies, but in a way that signifies not a positive resolution but rather subtle resignation. The Piano Trio No. 3 was started in 2013 but substantially revised in 2018, making it in effect the newest work here. Here is another example of Auerbach’s take-no-prisoners attitude, at least in a theatrical sense. The work is in four movements, with varied tempos and dynamics that, at least superficially, reflect a Classical model. It opens with bold chords for piano solo before settling into a series of wildly contrasting dancelike segments. The slow movement radiates a kind of bluesy fantasy. There is a grand, overarching sense to this large-scale work, which feels operatic in its array of moods and dramatic expositions.

The brief Three Dances in the Old Style recall the nostalgic if slightly cynical view that many contemporary composers take on music from a simpler worldview. This seems to be a particularly favored format for Slavic composers, including Schnittke (Suite in the Old Style) and Silvestrov (Kitsch-Musik), not to mention Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky. It is a neat little respite on an album of full-throttle intensity. The Delta Piano Trio delivers this remarkable music with magnificent artistry and unwavering passion. 


Peter Burwasser

Fanfare Magazine Issue 47:5 - May/June 2024

Positive Feedback 

"The Delta Piano Trio are quite a remarkable trio, and they bring their usual technical mastery to these performances. Their performances in this new recording are a tour de force of high intensity, immense concentration, and forceful communication whether in the solo, duo or trio assemblages required by these various compositions."

Read the full article here

Positive Feedback, 28-1-2024

Musicweb International 

This is the second disc of Lera Auerbach’s piano trios I have had the pleasure to review.  The previous one, contained her first and second trios, performed by the Delta Piano Trio (review). The CD under review demonstrates other sides of Auerbach, as well, and should appeal to those following her career and anyone seriously interested in contemporary music.

In addition to the piano trios, both of which are listed as world premieres, there are works for solo violin, solo piano, and violin/cello duo.  The programme begins with the solo piano Lonely Suite with the subtitle, “Ballet of a Lonely Violinist.” Simone Leuven in the disc’s notes describes it as exploring “the state of being lonely, the music reflecting a recognisable and unsettling condition.”  While not music for an actual ballet, each of its six sections has an illustrative title, such as the first movement’s “Dancing with Oneself.”  This is a slow, stilted waltz with the employment of both pizzicato and glissando.  The second movement, “Boredom” can be a bit tedious with its repetition of the Frère Jacques-like refrain of octave and fifth.  “No Escape,” the third section, is rather abrasive and reminds me of Arvo Pärt’s writing for the violin.  The fourth movement, “Imaginary Dialogue,” on the other hand, is beautifully lyrical and tonal.  This contrasts with “Worrisome Thought,” with some percussive clicks and repeated notes.  The finale, “Question,” leaves the listener with quite a feeling of loneliness, as it contains three notes repeated over and over and then just dying away.  Although the work leaves a positive impression, it would have been helpful to see a video to know just how violinist Gerard Spronk accomplishes the varied percussive effects of the piece.

Where I found the Lonely Suite rather easy to appreciate, Milking Darkness for piano solo left the opposite impression.  It starts with powerful cluster chords in the lower register and high single notes.  The work is dissonant, alternately aggressive and mysterious.  Auerbach seems to love loud passages with low piano chords, resonating with the sustain pedal held down.  Leuven notes that the “blackness” in the work is “all-encompassing.”  I found its ten-minute length tiresome.  The brief Three Dances in the Old Style, on the other hand, are a nice break from Milking Darkness.  They are folkish and tonal, but interesting in their use of sul ponticello and glissando.  The violin and cello complement each other well, and the work’s melodies create an eighteenth-century atmosphere. 

The most substantial works on the disc are the piano trios.  The Piano Trio No. 3 is in four movements and lasts over 26 minutes, whereas the Trio No. 4 is in a single movement of 18+ minutes.  Like its predecessor on the earlier disc, the Third Trio impressed me most of the music on this CD.  It encompasses a broad range of moods, the movements being marked Grandioso, Andante libero, Adagio religioso, and Allegro brutale.  It commences ferociously with sonorous chords in the lower register with bell-like notes in the treble range before becoming quiet and mysterious.  Then it gets really animated and rhythmic with all three instruments going at it.  Auerbach employs sul ponticello in this movement, too—perhaps one of her favourite devices.  The second movement opens with a loud cluster chord by the pianist left to resonate before the ensemble introduces a slow waltz, which on the violin sounds like a musical saw!  This waltz continues with the strings slipping and sliding, as well as plucking, creating a sensation of seasickness.  Contrasting this is a hymn or prayer that begins the slow movement and provides some relief in its quietness and meditation, though it too builds up a head of steam before it once again settles down and concludes softly with string tremolos.  The finale lives up to its designation, but, besides being brutal, has a memorable march-like first subject, after which it turns lyrical.  This does not last and the music is again noisy, only to stop for a long pause before becoming quiet and eerie.  The loud, jerky march or “proud dance,” as Leuven describes it, of the beginning returns a couple of minutes before the work concludes softly on the violin followed by powerful dissonant chords.  There is much to digest in this trio, but it shows Auerbach at the top of her game as a composer of chamber music.

I found the Piano Trio No. 4 much harder to like.  It is unremittingly bleak and dark.  Auerbach views it as a kind of requiem.  As Leuven notes, “it opens with the ringing of a funeral chime in D minor,” played pizzicato on the cello followed by the piano.  The trio does contain some more lyrical music, but overall leaves a rather dour impression with its long single-movement duration.  This takes nothing away from the extraordinary performance by the three musicians, who collaborated with the composer to make the recording.  Thus, one may consider it as authoritative.  There is enough variety in the programme, even with its predominant darkness, to make it a worthy addition to the Auerbach discography.  The recorded sound itself is exemplary.

Leslie Wright


Read the full article here

Music Web International, 08-11-2023

Nieuwe Noten 

"The pizzicato playing sounds soft and particularly subdued in the 2002 'Lonely Suite – Ballet for a Lonely Violinist', alternating with even modest string movements. Auerbach expresses loneliness in music. Visual, melodic, but also with that rawness mentioned above, for example in the third part 'No Escape'. Viola player Gerard Spronk plays it with great empathy and expression."

Read the full article (in Dutch) here

Nieuwe Noten, 13-10-2023

Review in Trouw

The three musicians created the album in close collaboration with the composer and can therefore delve deeply into the notes. Auerbach sometimes milks the darkness sublimely, but also mixes black humor into it.

Trouw, 16-10-2023

Klassiek van nu

"The Delta Piano Trio plays on the cutting edge and the recording is simply excellent. This release is definitely Edison-worthy."

Klassiek van nu, 02-2-2024

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