Alfred Garrievich Schnittke (1934-1998)

Episodes

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01Shostakovich's Heir?20180730

Exploring the strange, brilliant and sometimes nightmarish world of Alfred Schnittke.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod explores the strange, brilliant and occasionally nightmarish world of the Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke. Today - the composer's role as heir to Shostakovich.

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 the week by exploring the connections - musical, psychological and spiritual - between Alfred Schnittke and the great titan of Soviet music, Dmitri Shostakovich. Featuring the second movement of Schnittke's uttterly remarkable First Symphony - a gargantuan, postmodernist fever-dream of a piece in which tangos, Bach, marching bands, Beethoven, honky-tonk pianos, electric guitars and Viennese walzes collide in a vast particle-accelerator of musical history.

Concerto Grosso No 1 (version for flute, oboe, harpsichord, prepared piano and strings) (2nd mvt)
Sharon Bezaly, flute
Christopher Cowie, oboe
Cape Philharmonic Orchestra
Owain Arwel Hughes, conductor

Violin Concerto No 1 (2nd mvt)
Mark Lubotsky, violin
Malmo Symphony Orchestra
Eri Klas, conductor

Piano Quintet (2nd mvt - "In Tempo Di Valse")
Erato Alakiozidou, piano
Lutoslawski Quartet

Violin Sonata No 1
Roman Mints, violin
Katya Apekisheva, piano

Symphony No 1 (2nd mvt)
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Leif Segerstam, conductor

Producer: Steven Rajam.

02Polystylist20180731

Exploring the strange, brilliant and sometimes nightmarish world of Alfred Schnittke.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod explores the strange, brilliant and sometimes nightmarish world of the Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke. Today - unravelling how Schnittke's blended jarringly disparate musical styles.

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.

In today's episode, Donald unravels the term "polystylism", which Schnittke himself coined to describe his fusing of wildly eclectic styles - from Bach to pop to hypermodernism to Tchaikovsky - in a unique, often dreamlike musical voice. But what does it all mean?

The Cloak (Gogol Suite)
USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Gennady Rozhdestvensky, conductor

Concerto Grosso No 3
Sarah & Deborah Nemtanu, violins
Orchestre Chambre de Paris
Sacha Goetzel, conductor

Voices Of Nature
Danish National Radio Choir
Stefan Parkman, conductor

Schnittke, arr Boguslavsky
Suite In The Old Style
Roman Mints, violin
Olga Martynolva, harpsichord
Andrei Doynikov & Dmitri Vlasik, percussion

Hymn No 3, for cello, bassoon, harp, harpsichord and tubular bells
Torleif Thedéen, cello
Christian Davidson, bassoon
Ingegerd Fredlund, harp
Entcho Raoukanov, harpsichord
Mayumi Kamata, tubular bells

Producer: Steven Rajam.

03A Religious Awakening20180801

Exploring the strange, brilliant and sometimes nightmarish world of Alfred Schnittke.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod explores the strange, brilliant and sometimes nightmarish world of the Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke. Today - Schnittke's unexpected (and controversial) turn to religion.

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.

By the mid-1970s, Schnittke was the most sought-after composer in Russia, so famous for his wild imagination and bizarre musical surprises that critics felt that there was nothing left he could do to shock them. They were wrong. From the late 1970s Schnittke embraced a simple, direct and deeply devout musical style in a succession of devoutly Christian works - alarming his fans in the avant-garde and winning him a whole new spectrum of admirers. Donald Macleod presents music associated with this religious revival - including his Choir Concerto, one of the masterpieces of 20th century choral music.

Complete This Work Which I Began (Choir Concerto - 4th mvt)
Bavarian Radio Chorus
Peter Dijsktra, conductor

Gloria - Credo - Crucifixus (Symphony No 2 "St Florian")
Mikaeli Chamber Choir
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Leif Segerstam, conductor

O Master Of All Living (Choir Concerto - 1st mvt)
Bavarian Radio Chorus
Peter Dijsktra, conductor

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)
Raul Mikson, Toomas Toohert, tenors
Estonian Philharmonic Chorus
Kaspar Putnins

Producer: Steven Rajam.

041985: Triumph And Catastrophe20180802

Exploring the strange, brilliant and sometimes nightmarish world of Alfred Schnittke.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod explores the strange, brilliant and sometimes nightmarish world of the Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke. Today - the year 1985 brings great musical success...and personal catastrophe.

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.

The year 1985 was perhaps the most important of Schnittke's entire life - for reasons both musically brilliant, and personally catastrophic. It saw the creation of a quintet of acknowledged masterpieces of the late 20th century, cementing Schnittke's position as perhaps the greatest Russian composer since Shostakovich. Yet it was also the year Schnittke suffered the first of a series of debilitating strokes, which would eventually kill him at the relatively young age of 63. Donald Macleod introduces music from this period, including the must-loved Viola Concerto and Fourth Concerto Grosso, which simultaneously functions as Schnittke's Fifth Symphony.

Moz-Art A La Haydn
Tero Latvala, Meri Englund, violins
Tapiola Sinfonietta
Ralf Gothoni, conductor

Viola Concerto (1st and 2nd mvts)
Yuri Bashmet, viola
USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Mstislav Rostropovich, conductor

Concerto Grosso No 4 / Symphony No 5 (2nd mvt)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly, conductor

Doctor Faustus lamented and wept...It came to pass (Faust Cantata)
Inger Blom, mezzo
Mikael Bellini, countertenor
Louis Devos, tenor
Ulrik Cold, bass
Malmo Symphony Orchestra and Choir
James DePriest, conductor

Menuet, for violin, viola and 'cello
Gidon Kremer, violin
Yuri Bashmet, viola
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello.

05Farewells20180803

Exploring the strange, brilliant and sometimes nightmarish world of Alfred Schnittke.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod explores the strange, brilliant and sometimes nightmarish world of Alfred Schnittke. Today - Schnittke's remarkable late creativity in the midst of physical decline.

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.

Schnittke's crippling stroke of 1985 was to be the first of several over the next decade - the last of which would claim his life at the premature age of 63. But rather than easing off, the composer seems to have regarded his mortality as a driver to create ever more music - to compose to the very bitter end, in the face of almost unimaginable physical challenges. In this final programme, Donald Macleod introduces a pair of masterpieces from his final years - his Sixth Symphony, memorably described by one critic as like "a Mahler symphony with the flesh torn away", and a complete performance of the shattering First Piano Sonata.

Stille Nacht
Anne Akiko Myers, violin
Emmanuel Ceysson, harp

Symphony No 6 (3rd and 4th mvts)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Tadaaki Otaka, conductor

Piano Sonata No 1
Simon Smith, piano.