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I can't get enough of Alfred Schnittke

Postby tollund » Mon Jun 24, 2013 3:29 pm

I'm a dilettante with classical music. My expertise only truly qualifies me to comment on my experiences with visceral Android gaming. Absorbing the corpses of dead camelidae into my colossal, beefy-armed, nicotine addled lump-monster in Alpaca Evolution gets old. Imagine that. When things get old, I get in the mood for old times, and occasionally I'll read up on the history surrounding classical pieces which I like, or which pique my ear. I also enjoy tracing the watershed moments and sea changes of clashing eras, and I've found Classical evolves hand in hand with these moments.

On to Schnittke, the post-modern era (1960s-1990s) Soviet Russian composer following in the footsteps of other great S-names: Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich. Schnittke was no protege to any of these composers, per se. (As a graduate student, he studied under Shostakovich's lesser known contemporary Evgeny Golubev.) Still, many today choose to refer to Schnittke as the 'heir' to Shostakovich. Schnittke began his career in the shadow of Shostakovich's harmonic dissonance and polystylistic compostion, both of which Schnittke would develop significantly (more on that later) and, for a time, Schnittke embraced highly structured Serialism, where Shostakovich flirted only playfully. In maturation, Schnittke developed a style more familiar to classical listeners as a prelude to the international, western, late-20th composers, ex. Glass and Adams. Whereas all three faced an ever heightened relevance of composing film score at the expense of concert fare, only Schnittke would do so with the signature feels of an intellect embittered, the trademark temperament of a late Soviet-era great, never quite free of censors stifling suffocations.

I find him both plaintively introspective and bombastically expressive in equal, if conflicting, measures.

In 1985, Schnittke suffered a stroke and lapsed into coma, on multiple occasions doctors pronounced him clinically dead. The stroke, or, the coma may have fundamentally changed Schnittke's personality. Although he did wake to compose again, a tumultuous decade of chronic illness followed, as would many more strokes. Emigrating from the dying USSR in 1990 to Hamburg and the West, Schnittke composed for the rest of his life, albeit with quietude, implicit otherness.

I'll post just a few examples, but there's plenty of Schnittke out there, and much of it is on the 'tube, although it's an understatement to mention the mediocre fidelity.

Concerto Grosso n.1, 1976. This symphony characterizes Schnittke's polystylism, his method of bringing disparate schools of music both new and old together, momentarily, into one work. "a play of three spheres, the Baroque, the Modern and the banal," in his own words.
Concerto per violino n.3, 1978. The concertos are kinda long, but this one is on the shorter end at 27 min. This piece marries reticent textures with bowstringed emotion, late night music.
Polyphonischer Tango, 1979. (NSFW video) A typical tango, which might not seem of interest at first, shifts, in and out, between soviet-approved melodic conformity, and complete atonality approaching the frowned upon twelve-tone technique. (And Soviet censors would not allow twelve-tone anywhere near film.)
Sinfonia n.4, 1984. More awesome night music. I don't like to use the word challenging with composers, because it is an instant turn off whenever someone tries to school everyone else in the avant-garde, ala Stockhausen. Even when viewed from inaccessible angles, I believe well composed music will freely prompt the imagination of the listener, provided they do listen.
(K)ein Sommernachtstraum, 1985. At his most vociferous, just before the stroke. This piece is haunting to me.

Hope you're all familiar with Schnittke now, because I think I'll stop there! I'm sure I've explained details of his life and his music wrongly; and there are important things missing. I have only the smallest window into his life and work as of yet. There is much more to know about Schnittke's connection to Schubert, for instance. :geek:

Classical for classical's sake is wonderful, but I think the cat and mouse style of Intruder suits itself nicely to what I've listened to in this subforum so far... I hope to hear a little classical music inside the game itself, too! ;)

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