Alfred Schnittke

Donald Macleod explores the strange, brilliant and occasionally nightmarish world of the Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke. The music of Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) is like being lost in a hall of mirrors. Staring back at you is the whole of music history - from Bach to modern pop via tangos, Soviet work songs, Gregorian chant and Viennese waltzes - refracted and distorted, and woven together to create a uniquely personal style. Thrilling, grotesque, occasionally nightmarish - Schnittke creates a world where everything has a hidden meaning. Beethoven's Fifth suddenly springs terrifyingly out of the darkness in the midst of an otherwise chaotic symphony. Or a cheap Russian pop song appears inexplicably amidst a Baroque chorale. Schnittke's world of suppressed meanings perfectly captured life under the cosh of Soviet Communism. All this week, Donald Macleod unpicks the strands of a musician often seen as the heir to Shostakovich - and perhaps the last truly great composer of the 20th century. Donald begins by exploring the connections - musical, psychological and spiritual - between Alfred Schnittke and the great titan of Soviet music, Dmitri Shostakovich. He then unravels the term "polystylism", which Schnittke himself coined to describe his fusing of wildly eclectic styles - from Bach to pop to hypermodernism to Tchaikovsky. We hear about Schnittke’s intense fame in the 1970s, and how his turn to a deeply devout musical style shocked the avant-garde and won him a whole new spectrum of admirers. Donald takes us through Schnittke’s most rollicking and significant year – 1985 – which saw the creation of five acknowledged masterpieces and the first of several crippling strokes. Seemingly, Schnittke’s mortality drove him to create ever more shattering music in his final years - to compose to the very bitter end, in the face of almost unimaginable physical challenges. Music featured: Concerto Grosso No 1 (arr. for flute, oboe, harpsichord, prepared piano and strings) (2nd mvt) Violin Concerto No 1 (2nd mvt) Piano Quintet (2nd mvt - "In Tempo Di Valse") Violin Sonata No 1 Symphony No 1 (2nd mvt) The Cloak (Gogol Suite) Concerto Grosso No 3 Voices Of Nature Schnittke, arr Boguslavsky Suite In The Old Style Hymn No 3, for cello, bassoon, harp, harpsichord and tubular bells Complete This Work Which I Began (Choir Concerto - 4th mvt) Gloria - Credo - Crucifixus (Symphony No 2 "St Florian") O Master Of All Living (Choir Concerto - 1st mvt) When They Beheld The Ship That Suddenly Came; If You Wish To Overcome Unending Sorrow; I Entered This Life Of Tears A Naked Infant (Psalms Of Repentance) Moz-Art A La Haydn Viola Concerto (1st & 2nd mvts) Concerto Grosso No 4 / Symphony No 5 (2nd mvt) Doctor Faustus lamented and wept...It came to pass (Faust Cantata) Menuet, for violin, viola and 'cello Stille Nacht Symphony No 6 (3rd & 4th mvts) Piano Sonata No 1 For full tracklistings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Schnittke: And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: Presenter: Donald Macleod Producer: Steven Rajam for BBC Wales

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