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Schnittke: Concerto Grosso No 1, Quasi Una Sonata / Schiff


Release Date: 03/25/2010 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 429413   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alfred Schnittke
Performer:  Yuri SmirnovTatiana GrindenkoGidon Kremer
Conductor:  Heinrich SchiffGidon Kremer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

If George Antheil ("Bad boy of music" as he styled himself) had lived on into the 1960s, some thing tells me that he would have been delighted with Alfred Schnittke's playful, irreverent "polystylism" (as Schnittke has called it himself). For just as Antheil flourished in 1920s Paris, writing a kind of punk-Stravinsky, so Schnittke provided a focus for the Moscow 'underground' in the late 1960s and 1970s with a blend of punk-expressionism and echt-Russian spirituality.

Not that Schnittke has merely adopted a latterday épater les bourgeois attitude; he has cultivated his drastically violent musical language and his stylistic collisions because that's how he sees the essence of modern life (and
Read more partly, no doubt, because it appeals to the speculative German side of his temperament).

For a single representative example of polystylism look no further than the Concerto Grosso No. 1. The colliding elements are baroque clichés, tense chromatic crawlings and deliberately trite song or dance themes; the mélange is put together with such flair and abandon that it has become probably his most performed, certainly his most recorded work. The rival BIS/Conifer recording is impressive enough, but this new DG one has a still more uninhibited, full-blooded quality, largely thanks to the trenchant contributions of Kremer and Grindenko. One or two details have been added—an extra harpsichord counterpoint here, some violin sul ponticello there—always to enhanced idiomatic effect, and the hellish journeys of the Toccata second movement and Rondo fifth movement are done with suitably appalling relish. My only reservation is that the soloists have been so closely miked as to place the ripieni at an unnecessary disadvantage.

There are more sledgehammer-horrors in Quasi una sonata, originally written for violin and piano (1968), but here in its 1987 orchestration. An ingenious rewriting it is too, especially in its transmuting of piano clusters and semi-aleatoric passages. This was the piece that first drew me to Schnittke, and I am inclined to pass over the passages of graffiti-scrawling harmonic indiscriminacy in favour of the immense conviction which radiates from the piece as a whole. Kremer digs in to the solo passages with tremendous ferocity—I hope the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Stradivarii doesn't get to hear of it.

Moz-Art a la Haydn (1977) is more of a jeu d'esprit, a theatrical elaboration of the extant fragments of Mozart's pantomime music K416d—'à to Haydn' because the musicians eventually file out ala Haydn Farewell Symphony. Only a chip from the workbench this, but it makes a mildly amusing conclusion to a well-recorded, outstandingly well-played compilation of Schnittke's chamber orchestra works.

-- Gramophone [9/1990]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto Grosso no 1 by Alfred Schnittke
Performer:  Yuri Smirnov (Piano), Yuri Smirnov (Harpsichord), Tatiana Grindenko (Violin),
Gidon Kremer (Violin)
Conductor:  Heinrich Schiff
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977; USSR 
Date of Recording: 09/1988 
Venue:  Kammermusiksaal, Berlin 
Length: 28 Minutes 25 Secs. 
2.
Moz-Art ŕ la Haydn by Alfred Schnittke
Performer:  Gidon Kremer (Violin)
Conductor:  Gidon Kremer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977; USSR 
Date of Recording: 09/1988 
Venue:  Kammermusiksaal, Berlin 
Length: 12 Minutes 5 Secs. 
3.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 "Quasi una Sonata" by Alfred Schnittke
Performer:  Gidon Kremer (Violin), Yuri Smirnov (Piano)
Conductor:  Gidon Kremer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968/1987; USSR 
Date of Recording: 09/1988 
Venue:  Kammermusiksaal, Berlin 
Length: 21 Minutes 48 Secs. 

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