Lera Auerbach is at least a triple threat – she’s a concert pianist, highly sought after composer, and she also has written several collections of poetry and prose in her native Russian (and one in English, Excess of Being). One of the challenges of being both a performer and creator is figuring out how to do both – and sometimes that means working while others are asleep. San Francisco Performances welcomes her back to Herbst Theatre next Tuesday night for a solo recital that includes Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and the world premiere of her own 21st Century Pictures.

There’s more information at the San Francisco Performances website.

Other pianists, on tour, generally are thinking about the upcoming venue, and what repertoire they’re playing. But Auerbach is usually facing composing deadlines too. “So after a full day of rehearsing, practicing, I also have to work on the new pieces,” she says. “So I often stay way into the night and compose after the day of rehearsals and concerts.” When possible, she arranges her schedule so that the time of the most concentrated composing is happening when she’s not performing, and then she takes advantage of the night time. “When I’m in my writing period, usually what happens is the day and night switch completely. I wake up in the evening. I sleep through the day, wake up in the evening, I work through the evening, through the night, morning, go to sleep at midday. It’s helping switch day and night, because there is a certain quietness in the night, and privacy, and feeling of concentration that the day doesn’t allow for.”  Her output has been considerable – with pieces for solo piano, sonatas for violin and cello, large scale symphonic and choral works, ballet (her Little Mermaid had its US premiere in 2005 at the San Francisco Ballet) and opera: Gogol was based on a stage play that she also wrote. But she still writes her music, at least to begin with, the old-fashioned way. “I do write by hand. Originally all my sketches are by hand. It’s actually the same with literature. I write everything by hand. And it’s something about the hand and mind coordination for me which is very seamless. It’s almost like I don’t notice the process itself.”