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COMPOSERS: Schnittke/Berg
WORKS: Concerto for Three; String Trio; Minuet
PERFORMER: Berg:Canon (transcr. Schnittke); Gidon Kremer (violin), Yuri Bashmet (viola), Mstislav Rostropovich (cello); Moscow Soloists
Here’s a compositional update on the music of Alfred Schnittke, purveyor of the Shostakovich tradition with more than a touch of his own brand of personal anguish, and a minor miracle in his continuing creative vitality in the teeth of dogged ill-health. The Concerto pays tribute to a trio of artists who have done so much to promote his international reputation, giving them each a movement of their own, plus a frantic bout of playing together that seems less a separate episode than a madcap coda. Schnittke introduces the instruments of the orchestra in line with the order of his soloists. So the first movement is a dense, fierce prelude for Rostropovich and other cellists, the second, a nebulous Scherzo for Bashmet and the lower strings and the third a pleading Largo for full string orchestra where the mask slips to reveal, in Kremer’s ethereal phrases, a pleading soul.


The warm proximity of sound catches the nuance of their playing, both in the Concerto and the Minuet written in the same year, and their collective authority in the String Trio makes this reading unique among the several now available. Nicholas Williams