Alfred Schnittke  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Alfred Garyevich Schnittke (Альфре́д Га́рриевич Шни́тке, November 24, 1934 Engels - August 3, 1998 Hamburg) was a Russian and Soviet composer. Schnittke's early music shows the strong influence of Dmitri Shostakovich. He developed a polystylistic technique in works such as the epic First Symphony (1969-1972) and First Concerto Grosso (1977). In the 1980s, Schnittke's music began to become more widely known abroad. In the 1980s, he wrote his Second (1980) and Third (1983) String Quartets and the String Trio (1985); the ballet Peer Gynt (1985-1987); the Third (1981), Fourth (1984) and Fifth (1988) Symphonies; and the Viola (1985) and 1st Cello (1985-1986) Concertos. As his health deteriorated, Schnittke's music started to abandon much of the extroversion of his polystylism and retreated into a more withdrawn, bleak style.

Contents

Biography

Schnittke's father was born in Frankfurt to a Jewish family of Russian origin. He moved to the USSR in 1926. His mother was a Volga German born in Russia.

Alfred Schnittke was born in Engels in the Volga-German Republic of the RSFSR, Soviet Union. He began his musical education in 1946 in Vienna where his father, a journalist and translator, had been posted. In 1948, the family moved to Moscow. He completed his graduate work in composition at the Moscow Conservatory in 1961 and taught there from 1962 to 1972. Evgeny Golubev was one of his composition teachers. Thereafter, he supported himself mainly by composing film scores and composed nearly 70 scores in 30 years. Schnittke converted to Christianity and possessed deeply held mystic beliefs which influenced his music.

Schnittke was often the target of the Soviet bureaucracy. His First Symphony was effectively banned by the Composers' Union, and after he abstained from a Composers' Union vote in 1980, he was banned from travelling outside of the USSR. In 1985, Schnittke suffered a stroke which left him in a coma. He was declared clinically dead on several occasions, but recovered and continued to compose. In 1990, Schnittke left Russia and settled in Hamburg. His health remained poor, however, and he suffered several more strokes before his death on August 3, 1998 in Hamburg.

Music

Schnittke's early music shows the strong influence of Dmitri Shostakovich, but after the visit of the Italian composer Luigi Nono to the USSR, he took up the serial technique in works such as Music for Piano and Chamber Orchestra (1964). However, Schnittke soon became dissatisfied with what he termed the "puberty rites of serial self-denial" and moved on to a new style which has been called "polystylism", where music of various different styles past and present are juxtaposed (the composer once wrote "The goal of my life is to unify serious music and light music, even if I break my neck in doing so"). The first concert work to use the polystylistic technique was the Second Violin Sonata, Quasi una sonata (1967-1968), but the influence of Schnittke's film work on his stylistic development is shown by the fact that much of the music of this work was derived from a score for the animation short The Glass Harmonica. He continued to develop the polystylistic technique in works such as the epic First Symphony (1969-1972) and First Concerto Grosso (1977), but also composed more stylistically unified works such as the Piano Quintet (1972-1976), written in memory of his recently deceased mother.

In the 1980s, Schnittke's music began to become more widely known abroad, thanks in part to the work of emigre Soviet artists such as the violinists Gidon Kremer and Mark Lubotsky. Despite constant illness, he produced a large amount of music, including important works such as the Second (1980) and Third (1983) String Quartets and the String Trio (1985); the Faust Cantata (1983), which he later incorporated in his opera Historia von D. Johann Fausten; the ballet Peer Gynt (1985-1987); the Third (1981), Fourth (1984) and Fifth (1988) Symphonies (the last of which incorporates his Fourth Concerto Grosso) and the Viola (1985) and 1st Cello (1985-1986) Concertos.

As his health further deteriorated, Schnittke's music started to abandon much of the extroversion of his polystylism and retreat into a more withdrawn, bleak style. The Fourth Quartet (1989) and Sixth (1992), Seventh (1993) and Eighth (1994) symphonies are good examples of this, and some Schnittke scholars such as Gerard McBurney have argued that it is the late works which will ultimately be the most influential parts of Schnittke's output. After a further stroke in 1994 left him almost completely paralysed, Schnittke largely ceased to compose, though some short works emerged in 1997 and a Ninth Symphony was left almost unreadable at his death. This Ninth Symphony was later deciphered by Alexander Raskatov. It was premiered in Dresden, Germany June 16th, 2007.

Selected works

Orchestra

Symphonies

  • Symphony No. 0 (1957)
  • Symphony No. 1 (1969-74)
  • Symphony No. 2 "St. Florian" (1979)
  • Symphony No. 3 (1981)
  • Symphony No. 4 (1983)
  • Symphony No. 5 [Concerto Grosso No. 4] (1988)
  • Symphony No. 6 (1992)
  • Symphony No. 7 (1993)
  • Symphony No. 8 (1994)
  • Symphony No. 9 (1996-97; reconstructed by Alexander Raskatov)

Other orchestral

  • Pianissimo (1968)
  • In Memoriam... (1977-78) (orchestral version of the Piano Quintet)
  • Passacaglia (1979-80)
  • Gogol Suite [Suite from 'The Census List'] (1980)
  • Ritual (1984-85)
  • (K)ein Sommernachtstraum (1985)
  • Symphonic Prelude (1994)
  • For Liverpool (1994)

Concertos

Concerti grossi

  • Concerto Grosso No. 1, for two violins, harpsichord, prepared piano and strings (1976-77)
  • Concerto Grosso No. 2, for violin, violoncello and orchestra (1981-82)
  • Concerto Grosso No. 3, for 2 violins, harpsichord and strings (1985)
  • Concerto Grosso No. 4 [Symphony No. 5], for violin, oboe, harpsichord and orchestra (1988)
  • Concerto Grosso No. 5, for violin, offstage piano and orchestra (1991)
  • Concerto Grosso No. 6, for piano, violin and strings (1993)

Violin concertos

  • Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra (1957, revised 1963)
  • Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Chamber Orchestra (1966)
  • Concerto No. 3 for Violin and Chamber Orchestra (1978)
  • Concerto No. 4 for Violin and Orchestra (1984)

Piano concertos

  • Music for Piano and Chamber Orchestra (1964)
  • Concerto for Piano and Strings (1979)
  • Concerto for Piano Four Hands and Chamber Orchestra (1988)

Other instruments

  • Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp, and Strings (1971)
  • Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1985)
  • Concerto No. 1 for Violoncello and Orchestra (1986)
  • Monologue for Viola and Strings (1989)
  • Concerto No. 2 for Violoncello and Orchestra (1990)
  • Konzert zu Dritt, for violin, viola, violoncello and strings (1994)

Choral music

  • Voices of Nature (1972)
  • Requiem (1974-75)
  • Minnesang, for 52 voices (1981)
  • Seid Nüchtern und Wachet... [Faust Cantata] (1983)
  • Three Sacred Hymns (1983-84)
  • Concerto for Mixed Chorus (1984-85)
  • Psalms of Repentance / Penitential Psalms (1988)

Chamber music

  • Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano (1963; orchestrated, 1968)
  • Dialogue, for violoncello and 7 instruments (1965)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1966)
  • Serenade for violin, clarinet, double-bass, piano and percussion (1968)
  • Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano "Quasi una Sonata" (1968; orchestrated, 1987)
  • Canon in Memoriam Igor Stravinsky, for string quartet (1971)
  • Suite in the Old Style, for violin and piano or harpsichord (1972)
  • Gradulationsrondo, for violin and piano (1973)
  • Hymns I-IV, for violoncello and ensemble (1974-79)
  • Prelude in Memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich, for 2 violins (1975)
  • Quintet for Piano and Strings (1972-76)
  • "Stille Nacht", arr. for violin and piano (1978)
  • Sonata No. 1 for Violoncello and Piano (1978)
  • Stille Musik, for violin and violoncello (1979)
  • String Quartet No. 2 (1981)
  • Septet (1981-82)
  • A Paganini, for solo violin (1982)
  • String Quartet No. 3 (1983)
  • String Trio (1985, also arranged as Piano Trio, 1992)
  • String Quartet No. 4 (1989)
  • Madrigal in Memoriam Oleg Kagan, for solo violin or violoncello (1990)
  • Musica nostalgica, for violoncello and piano (1992)
  • Sonata No. 2 for Violoncello and Piano (1994)
  • Sonata No. 3 for Violin and Piano (1994)

Solo instrumental

  • Fuga for solo violin (1953)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1 (1987)
  • Klingende Buchstaben for solo cello (1988)
  • Five Aphorisms, for piano (1990)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 (1990)
  • Piano Sonata No. 3 (1992)

Operas

  • Life with an Idiot, opera in 2 acts, libretto by Viktor Yerofeyev (1992)
  • Historia von D. Johann Fausten, opera in 3 acts and an epilogue, libretto by Jörg Morgener (Jurjen Köchel) and Alfred Schnittke (1991-1994)
  • Gesualdo, opera in 7 tableaus, a prologue and an epilogue, libretto by Richard Bletschacher (1993)

Ballets

  • Labyrinths, ballet in five episodes. Libretto by Vladimir Vasilyev. (1971)
  • Sketches, ballet in one act. “Choerographic fantasia” by Andrei Petrov after the themes by Nikolai Gogol. (1985)
  • Peer Gynt, ballet in three acts by John Neumeier based on Henrik Ibsen’s drama (1988)

Soundtracks

  • Adventures of a Dentist, motion picture directed by Elem Klimov (1965, material reused in Suite in the Old Style)
  • The Glass Harmonica, animated film directed by Andrei Khrzhanovsky (1968, much material reused in Second Violin Sonata)
  • Sport, Sport, Sport, motion picture directed by Elem Klimov (1971)
  • The Agony, two-part motion picture directed by Elem Klimov (1974, main theme reused in the finale of the Second Cello Concerto)
  • "Malenkie tragedii (The Little Tragedies)", three-part TV film directed by Mikhail Shvejtser (1979)
  • Ekipazh (Air Crew), motion picture directed by Alexander Mitta (1979)
  • Skazka Stranstviy (The Story of the Voyages), motion picture directed by Alexander Mitta (1982)
  • The Last Days of St. Petersburg (1992, new score for 1927 motion picture, co-written with the composer's son Andrey)
  • Master i Margarita, motion picture directed by Yuri Kara (1994)

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Alfred Schnittke" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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