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Schnittke Between Two Worlds

Five Aphorisms; Three Madrigals, Peer Gynt Epilogue; Sonata 1 for violin and piano; Three Scenes;
Music to an Imagined Play; Concerto for Electric Instruments; Monologue; Concerto for Piano and Strings;
Concerto Grosso 1; The Yellow Sound


Allison Bell – soprano

Sir Timothy Ackroyd – speaker

Dmitry Sikovetsky – violin

Alexander Zemstov – viola

Alexander Petrushansky - cello

Boris Petrushansky, Kumi Matuo – piano

Royal College of Music Chamber Orchestra

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Vladimir Jurowski - conductor



Queen Elizabeth Hall, 22 November 2009


Between Two Worlds” is the title adopted for the recent Schnittke Festival arranged jointly by the Southbank Centre and Royal College of Music under the directorship of Vladimir Jurowski – a most welcome event.  Over the course of a couple of weeks a whole host of events have been on offer - a cross section of his varied musical output, illustrated talks from experts, and showings of some of the films for which for which Schnittke wrote the score. 


Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) must be rated as one of the most interesting and many faceted composers of the second half of the twentieth century. In the 1980s, Schnittke's music began to become more widely known abroad and in UK he was championed by Gennady Rozhdestvensky and regularly featured in London's Almeida Festival. His music has been reviewed in Musical Pointers and a Schnittke Archive is held at Goldsmith's College in the very active Centre for Russian Music.


His musical output includes 10 symphonies, at least 20 concertos, instrumental and chamber pieces, works for choir, operas, ballets and film and theatre scores. His style both reflects the legacy of the classical period of Bach and Haydn and embraces the developments of the twentieth century, whilst retaining links to the Russian tradition. Having to contend with the restrictions of Soviet period seems to have sparked off an additional level of creativity, with a good deal of humour and even parody thrown in. 




In one day alone, I was able to hear all the works listed above.  The selection was very varied and each performance had been prepared with loving attention to detail.  Detail is a key word where Scnittke is concerned, listening to his compositions can be a bit like trying to complete a complicated jigsaw puzzle.  Some of his combinations of instruments and blend of sounds may seem unexpected, and yet they all fit perfectly into a matched totality. 


I was particularly impressed by the clarity of tone of soprano Allison Bell and the totally dedicated piano playing of Boris Petrushanski.  My favourite piece? –Music to an Imagined Play – incidental music for a play that had been banned from performance in the USSR – 8 minutes of gorgeously tongue-in-cheek entertainment culminating in an ensemble for comb and paper played by members of the percussion section of the LPO and conductor, Vladimir Jarowski!


Serena Fenwick