Schnittke: Quasi una sonata; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Trio

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COMPOSERS: Schnittke
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Quasi una sonata; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Trio
PERFORMER: Mark Lubotsky (violin), Mstislav Rostropovich (cello), Irina Schnittke (piano); ECO/Mstislav Rostropovich
CATALOGUE NO: SK 53271 DDD
The composer as arranger might be a proper subtitle for this disc. Schnittke, a prodigious author of original works, has also served up his music in a variety of new guises: in this case, the Second Violin Sonata (1968) rescored as Quasi una sonata for violin and chamber orchestra, and the String Trio (1985) turned into a Piano Trio for performance at the 1993 Evian Festival.

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The String Trio has been down this road before, as the 1987 Trio-Sonata for chamber orchestra. Now, in its latest transformation, the music’s intricate workings are clearer than ever. The piano breaks up the homogenous sound into layers of texture, yet rarely imposes its own presence to the detriment of the full ensemble.

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This is a major work in perhaps its definitive form. By contrast, Quasi una sonata remains one of the composer’s seminal pieces in either of its versions, marking the debut of his celebrated ‘polystylism’ and his breakaway from the avant-garde. Stravinsky, serialism and Bach rub shoulders in a fiery performance by Mark Lubotsky. Thereless sense of identity in the Second Piano Sonata (1990): Hindemith crossed with Schnittke’s cluster technique. The bonus, however, is an authoritative reading by the composer’s wife, Irina. Nicholas Williams