ALFRED SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Symphony No. 7 (1994) 23.25
Cello Concerto No. 1 (1985)
Russian State SO/Valeri
CHANDOS CHAN 9852
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.