Schnittke: In Memoriam…; Music for Piano and Chamber Orchestra; Septet; Sound and Resound

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COMPOSERS: Schnittke
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: In Memoriam…; Music for Piano and Chamber Orchestra; Septet; Sound and Resound
PERFORMER: Russian State SO/Valéry Polyansky, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9466
Schnittke devotees whose first acquaintance with the composer was through his Piano Quintet will find in this a powerful renewal of affinity. Written in memory of the composer’s mother, In Memoriam… was adapted for orchestra at the urging of Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, to whom praise is due for his vision of its latent possibilities. In the event, ‘transcription’ seems too vague a word to use for this work, a wholesale rethinking of the medium of piano and solo strings in terms of the modern symphony orchestra. Rendered more fragile in presence and numinous in tone, the music feels a heartbeat away from eternity. In particular, the concluding Passacaglia, child-like and open-eyed in the original, takes on a guarded, even sinister character.

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The 1982 Septet is another discovery, the quiet lines of its ‘Perpetuum mobile’ being close to the minimalism of Cage. The chorale conclusion anticipates the tragic mode of Schnittke’s later period – a darkness sensed also in the murky organ chords of Sound and Resound. Webern is the model for Music for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, a work of Sixties vintage that will surely survive, if nowhere else, in the museum of musical works devoted to that distant decade. Nicholas Williams