Schnittke/Kancheli

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COMPOSERS: Schnittke/Kancheli
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Viola Concert
PERFORMER: Kancheli: Vom Winde beweint; Kim Kashkashian (viola); Saarbrücken RSO; Orchestra of the Beethovenhalle, Bonn/Dennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 437 199-2 ADD/DDD
The immense stature of Schnittke’s 1985 Viola Concerto is reflected by yet another commercial recording, its third. The American violist Kim Kashkashian gives a remarkable performance, passionate and at times dangerously abandoned, of a concerto that may arguably be the finest written for the instrument. It was originally composed for Yuri Bashmet, whose recent recording with the LSO and Rostropovich is significantly slower than Kashkashian’s. The faster speeds of Dennis Russell Davies and the Saarbrücken orchestra introduce a quality of desperation which serves to emphasise the grotesque ironies in the music while underlining its bleakness and desolation. Moments of uncertain intonation from the soloist do not distract unduly from this white-hot performance.

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The remarkable companion work, by the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli, is Vom Winde beweint, a liturgy for solo viola and large orchestra. In four movements, its slowness, melancholy and full tonal colours relate to the music of Pärt and Górecki, but the brutal, almost bombastic, outbursts from the brass in the second movement, powerfully performed by the Orchestra of the Beethovenhalle, uneasily approach film music. Annette Morreau