Schnittke • Pärt

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Part,Schnittke
LABELS: BR Klassik
ALBUM TITLE: Schnittke • Pärt
WORKS: Schnittke: Concerto for choir, Three Sacred Hymns, Voices of Nature; Pärt: Dopo la vittoria
PERFORMER: Bavarian Radio Symphony Choir/Peter Dijkstra
CATALOGUE NO: 900505

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The Choir Concerto, Schnittke’s heartfelt homage to the traditions of Russian Orthodox sacred music and also the Romantic choral style of the 19th century, is by far the most important work in this programme. There are several strong competing versions, notably the work’s original interpreter Valery Polyansky with the Russian State Symphonic Cappella (Chandos), the Holst Singers under Stephen Layton (Hyperion) and my personal favourite, the Swedish Radio Choir directed by Tõnu Kaljuste, whose coupling also includes Pärt’s gently festive cantata Dopo la vittoria. At first I found the Bavarian Radio singers, though impressively accurate in intonation, somewhat cool and uninvolving, lacking perhaps the dark ardour of Russian or Scandinavian voices. But this is a performance that accumulates power and authority as it proceeds, and the blazing conviction they bring to the work’s third and fourth movements – powerfully shaped by Peter Dijkstra – makes for a richly rewarding listening experience. The Three Sacred Hymns, with their more deadpan take on the Russian Orthodox tradition, and Voices of Nature, essentially a sonic study for wordless voices and vibraphone, are beautifully sung here – as is the Pärt, one of his most immediately attractive works, whose neo-Renaissance style contrasts neatly with Schnittke’s Slavonic ecstasies.

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Calum MacDonald