Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Sketches (1978-85)
March - The Swan, the Pike and the Crayfish [1:55]
Overture [1:21]
The Childhood of Chichikov [2:22]
The Portrait [6:24]
Major Kovalyov [0:43]
Morning [1:31]
In Search of the Nose [1:31]
Despair [1:53]
The Nose is found [2:20]
The Overcoat [2:16]
Ferdinand VIII [1:09]
The Civil Servants [2:30]
The Barrel-Organ [2:10]
The Unknown Woman [1:23]
Pas de deux [3:33]
The Debauch [1:29]
The Sabbath [2:02]
The Barrel-Organ [1:09]
Spanish Royal March [1:40]
The Ball [6:00]
The Testament [5:17]
March - The Swan, the Pike and the Crayfish [1:33]
Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra/Andrey Chistiakov
rec. January 1996, Mosfilm Studios. DDD

This sequence of sardonic and acidulous sketches dates from the late 1970s. They were written for the 1985 Bolshoi ballet Esquisses. The choreographer was Andrei Petrov . The music is intended to complement music Schnittke wrote in 1978 for a theatrical production of Gogol’s The Inspector’s Tale (after Dead Souls). This latter music ultimately emerged, with Gennadi Rozhdestvensky’s intervention, as The Gogol Suite.

The 22 items are each pretty short. They’re really satirical little vignettes where wit is in solution with corrosion. The music is sometimes raucous in the manner of Ibert and Satie. At other times there are tasty little knockabout visits by Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Beethoven (Symphony No. 5 – Fate motif), Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake), Mozart and Chopin (Pas de deux – tr. 15) references are dropped and capitalised upon along the way. The harpsichord is a frequent visitor but in a slightly less intense fashion than we may be accustomed to from the use made of the instrument in Shchedrin and Weinberg. French cinema music of the 1950s and 1960s is also evoked. Schnittke wrote more than his fair share of film scores as we know from Capriccio (Vol. 1; Vol. 2), Olympia and CPO. There’s an electric guitar (solo and bass), flexatone, piano (prepared with coins between the strings) and other percussion some of it ‘outlandish’. There’s even a Russian speaker in Ferdinand VIII (tr.11). The Barrel Organ (tr. 18) creaks and wheezes charmingly. But this is a work that also makes free with the sinister and grand guignol.

This sequence of short sound-picture is boldly recorded and serves well to tickle the ear and please with fantastic dances that lampoon authority. This is not necessarily a disc only for Schnittke fans.

The notes are by Marina Chistiakova and have been fluently translated by Derek Yeld.

Rob Barnett

This sequence of short sound-pictures is boldly recorded and serves well to tickle the ear.