In the brilliant history of the Chamber Choir of the Moscow Conservatory a separate chapter is connected with the musical legacy of Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998). Both compositions are united by the subject of faith and contemplation of what Is spiritual and spiritless. Despite the fact that chronologically the Requiem (1975) Is an earlier work than the Cantata (1983), on the CD they are presented in reverse order: following Alexander Solovyev's conception, the narrative of Faust’s tragic death, coming as retribution for his sinful earthly life, must be followed by a memorial prayer, the Requiem. The compact disc documented “live” performances: the Requiem was performed on September 17, 2013 at the Small Hall of the Conservatory, while the Cantata sounded out on September 29, 2014 at the Grand Hall of the Conservatory.
In 1978 Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) wrote the incidental music for a production of The Inspectors Tale, an adaptation for stage of Gogols Dead Souls. It was to have been directed by Yuri Lyubimov, but the Soviet government banned the production. A suite was assembled from the score by Gennadi Rozhdenstvensky, and two leading colleagues of Schnittke - Gubaidulina and Denisov contributed a jointly composed march, which opens this CD. In 1985 the music was choreographed, the ballet, called Esquisses was performed at the Bolshoi. Schnittke composed a number of new pieces for this production. The characters in the action are all from Gogol, but in addition to The Dead Souls, we meet Tchitchikov, Major Kovalyovs Nose, and Ferdinand VIII from Notes of a Madman. A passage from the book is recited in his piece, and is read by the conductor on this CD. The music is a poly-stylistic, with a huge orchestra (2 electric guitars, flexatone, prepared piano with coins inserted between the strings), quotations from Beethoven, Haydn, Tchaikovsky - all with a sense of devilish mischief which suites ideally the grotesque nature of many of Gogols characters.
This is the last installment of the Pacifica Quartet’s Shostakovich cycle named “The Soviet Experience” because it adds one quartet by other Russian composers (Miaskovsky, Prokofiev, Weinberg, and Schnittke) to each release. Although there are many performances of the complete Shostakovich quartets available, the Pacifica Quartet’s traversal of these masterpieces is one of the best. Their sheer brilliance of execution, the emotional depth of their interpretation and the stunning sound make this a most desirable set……Robert Moon @ Audiophile Audition
This 2009 ECM disc containing the world premiere of Alfred Schnittke's Ninth Symphony, the composer's final work, will be mandatory listening for fans of post-modernist Russian music, or contemporary music in general. Begun after the premiere of Schnittke's Eighth Symphony in 1994 and unfinished at the composer's death in 1998, the Ninth existed only as three movements of manuscript (and indecipherable manuscript at that: a stroke had paralyzed Schnittke's right side, forcing him to write with his left hand) until composer Alexandr Raskatov deciphered the manuscript and conductor Dennis Russell Davies presented its premiere. As presented in this January 2008 recording, Schnittke's Ninth continues and extends the austere sound world of the Eighth into ever more severe zones. There's no denying this is the authentic voice of Schnittke: the etiolated textures, abrupt gestures, timeless tempos, and haunting themes have clear roots in the composer's preceding works. Davies and the excellent Dresdner Philharmonie appear acutely conscious that the Ninth was the composer's last work, but the tone of leave-taking is inherent in Schnittke's inward music.
This powerful record brings together two of the most seminal works for viola and orchestra of the twentieth century. Although these pieces are as different as they are similar, together they form a distinct balance of sentiment and execution.
These two pieces make such excellent bedfellows that I’m surprised the coupling is not more common, though as I write this, Naxos have just announced their own recording of the same pairing. The Shostakovich seems to me an unfairly neglected work, considering its instant popularity after the 1940 premiere (the composer with the Beethoven Quartet). It was written in the wake of the Sixth Symphony, and is his last major pre-war piece. It encompasses many of the traits for which the composer is famous; there are the intense, neo-Bachian first and second movements, a playful, heavily ironic scherzo, a pensive, soulful intermezzo, and a finale where probing questions lurk beneath a surface veneer of jovial high spirits.
Alfred Schnittke seems to have encountered a renaissance with the solo piano late in life. Until the mid-1980s, he had written only one piano sonata, sometime in the '50s, and he eventually discarded it. But in 1987 Schnittke composed a First Piano Sonata of sizable scope for friend and pianist Vladimir Feltsman; shortly afterwards materialized Schnittke's Second and Third Piano Sonatas. This CD presents all three together.
Upon his emergence in the West in the early 1980s, Alfred Schnittke became one of the most talked-about, recorded, and influential composers of the last decades of the twentieth century. Schnittke was born in 1934 in the Soviet Union to German parents. After living for several years in Vienna, he returned to Moscow to attend the Conservatory from 1953-1958. He returned there to teach instrumentation from 1962 through 1972. Thereafter, splitting his time between Moscow and Hamburg, he supported himself as a film composer.