Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998, Russian)

My discovery of Schnittke was way back, at the end of the 1970s or maybe very early 1980s, when Kremer’s Eurodisc/Melodiya LP with Sibelius’ Violin Concerto and Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 (with Tatjana Gridenko and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky) entered my collection. It wasn’t the first piece of Schnittke that was recorded (Melodiya had recorded a few pieces of chamber music), but I believe tat it was the first one to be distributed in the West. It was a revelation: in those days of still triumphant serial avant-garde, nobody dared write like that, and it took someone from the other side of the Iron Curtain for it to be accepted and acceptable, starting like a baroque concerto grosso and then skidding off into nightmarish areas.

I’ve listened to a lot of Schnittke in the early CD days, when Melodiya and BIS seemed to churn out CDs of his music by the dozen. It was very exciting, although I found that he didn’t always maintain the same level of inspiration and sometimes seemed to caricature himself and his own “polystylicism”. But I haven’t reviewed much, and need to return.

The 6-minute Fragment from an unfinished cantata recorded by Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Baltica on their recital De Profundis(with works of Sibelius, Pärt, Šerkšnytė, Schumann, Nyman, Schubert, Tickmayer, Shostakovich, Auerbach, Piazzolla, Pelēcis, Schnittke), Nonesuch 7559 79969 9 (2010), is a very powerful piece.

Comments are welcome