Schnittke/Gubaidulina/Shchedrin

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COMPOSERS: Schnittke/Gubaidulina/Shchedrin
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Piano Concerto; Music for the City of Köthen; Seven Words for Cello, Bayan and Strings
PERFORMER: Vladimir Krainev (piano), Friedrich Lips (bayan), Mikhail Milman (cello); Moscow Virtuosi/Vladimir Spivakov
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 60466 2 DDD
This disc affords a glimpse of musical Russia on the eve of glasnost, when the state was still solvent enough to fund composers, even if they had to endure official criticism for the privilege. The unfamiliar name on this disc is that of Rodion Shchedrin, a leading figure in Soviet musical life for three decades. Nothing in his Music for the City of Köthen rises above the ordinary level of Baroque pastiche in the manner of Shostakovich’s well-known Preludes and Fugues. References to the fifth Brandenburg occasionally raise the temperature. Nevertheless, the overall effect is deliberate and impersonal.

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Schnittke’s Piano Concerto of 1979 takes the opposite view, pushing everything to extremes, welding disparate musics into a unity by force of character. Vladimir Krainev gives an exemplary performance with the Moscow Virtuosi and conductor Vladimir Spivakov, powerful in the Slavonic-liturgical sections, yet never neglecting the work’s lyrical moments.

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In the Sieben Worte (1982) by Sofia Gubaidulina, now a familiar name in the West, cello and bayan (Russian folk accordion) dwell on material from previous settings by Haydn and Schütz. The mood is introspective throughout, breathing the same air as our own John Tavener. Nicholas Williams