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Bach & Schnittke

Bach,J.s. / Schnittke / Alikhanova / Bulgakov
Release Date: 07/12/2011 
Label:  Quartz Records   Catalog #: 2083   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Alfred SchnittkeJohann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Maria AlikhanovaDmitri BulgakovFyodor Stroganov
Conductor:  Misha Rachlevsky
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 53 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHNITTKE Moz-Art à la Haydn. Concerto Grosso No. 1. BACH Double Violin Concerto in d Maria Alikhanova (fl); Dmitri Bulgakov (ob); Misha Rachlevsky, cond; CO Kremlin QUARTZ 2083 (51:59)

The late, great Alfred Schnittke (1934–98) is a mystifying figure in many respects; stylistically he went through many formal conversions until arriving at what he called “polystylism.” He has a wicked sense of dark humor Read more in his music, which also reflects personal suffering and persecution—hardly an unknown thing for a Russian composer, even one with pronounced German sensibilities. This CD offers two works that have become hallmarks of his style, and that have to some extent found their way into certain concert halls and recordings. Moz-Art à la Haydn reflects the composer’s desire to affect the senses both aurally and visually. It starts with 13 members of the orchestra sitting on the stage in total darkness improvising around Mozart’s incomplete “Pantomime” music of K 466. Lights come up and we are treated to an obstacle course of alternating Mozart and Haydn quotations interspersed with modern exaggerated and heavy-set chords. At the end, à la Haydn , the players leave the stage one by one until only the conductor is left standing, still beating time. Interesting this may be, but a purely aural recording is equally affecting, and the pastiche mentality of the work serves a purpose while keeping us entertained as well—the various quotes that pop up almost serve as comic relief from the other music.

The Concerto Grosso No. 1 is another work that has hit the airways in a fairly big manner. This work brought the composer into the limelight, and its tripartite composition of “Baroque, modern, and the banal” (to quote the composer) is so skillfully juxtaposed that even some of his obvious parodies come across as serious and very dramatic, all to good effect. I never tire of this piece, and it remains the best introduction to Schnittke available.

These performances come into direct competition with the recording by the dedicatees, Gidon Kremer and Tatiana Grindenko, whose DG recording is still available on ArkivMusic as one of its special issues. Those readings are of course definitive, and the original was also paired with the “Quasi una Sonata” Piano Sonata No. 2. Later it was rereleased to include the solo violin work A Paganini , making for a very attractive issue still available on a DG Masters issue. Of course in another important way these readings are not in competition, for instead of violin and violin, as in the originals, Schnittke revised the two works on this recording for flute and oboe. They make for interesting sonorities when compared with the Kremer recording. Kremer is an intense madman on his issue, and there is no way these two instruments can match that, and they needn’t—the possibilities inherent in the colors themselves make for a new listening experience. I would not for one moment even consider sacrificing the older DG recording for this one, but there are new things to be learned here, and Maria Alikhanova and Dmitri Bulgakov play like champs.

Bach actually opens this disc, and does set the stage very effectively for what is to follow. Again, it is an arrangement of the familiar and favorite Bach work for two violins, but this time in accordance with a practice the old master engaged in time and time again. This is a very sprightly reading, beautifully executed.

If you love Schnittke, or want to see what he is all about, the Kremer recording is a necessity. But this one makes no apologies, and does the composer justice while doing Bach proud as well.

FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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Works on This Recording

Moz-Art à la Haydn by Alfred Schnittke
Performer:  Maria Alikhanova (Flute), Dmitri Bulgakov (Oboe)
Conductor:  Misha Rachlevsky
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977; USSR 
Date of Recording: 06/2010 
Venue:  Recording Studio, Academy of Choral Art, 
Length: 10 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Concerto Grosso no 1 by Alfred Schnittke
Performer:  Fyodor Stroganov (Harpsichord), Maria Alikhanova (Flute), Fyodor Stroganov (Prepared Piano),
Dmitri Bulgakov (Oboe)
Conductor:  Misha Rachlevsky
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977; USSR 
Date of Recording: 06/2010 
Venue:  Recording Studio, Academy of Choral Art, 
Length: 27 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Maria Alikhanova (Flute), Dmitri Bulgakov (Oboe)
Conductor:  Misha Rachlevsky
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/2010 
Venue:  Recording Studio, Academy of Choral Art, 
Length: 13 Minutes 3 Secs. 

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