Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Symphony No. 7 (1994) 23.25
Cello Concerto No. 1 (1985) 40.08
Alexander Ivashkin (cello)
Russian State SO/Valeri Polyansky
CHANDOS CHAN 9852 [63.34]

Chandos have done Schnittke proud with their catalogue graced by a full quiver of CDs. They, together with BIS, have established Schnittke in the catalogues.

Schnittke is not an easy listen. The music is not the equivalent of shrapnel, neither jagged nor disconnected. Its sour long lines are lyrical and commanding. The lyricism is acrid, burning and dissolute. Both Bach and Beethoven are in evidence though glimpsed through the veils of twentieth century dissonance. This description well fits the first two movements of the seventh symphony (a Masur/NYPO commission) while the third which is almost as long the other two put together is even more strained and rent with conflict and dark subway elegies (2.50). His hallmark harpsichord enters at 3.00. The music may be tough going but the tattered and vulnerable trumpets at 6.02 are undeniably communicative. The big cello concerto was written either side of the destructive stroke he suffered in 1985. This landmark event turned the key on his dissonant style releasing it is a flow of expressionist protest. This leaves the concerto a dilapidated caravanserai of sour fluency and negation. Ivashkin is seemingly the sympathetic equal of this; bardically authoritative singing a song of devastation. I find this music extremely difficult. This is not the Schnittke to start out with. Certainly a connoisseur's choice.

Rob Barnett

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