„Each person builds his own cultural centre ...“ - 85th Birthday of Alfred Schnittke

”It  is  a  constant  awareness  that  there  was  always  something  before  you  –  that  always  existed  –  and  that  one’s  entire  individual  musical  development  is  a  continuation  along  the  path  that  has  been  there  for  a  long  time,  one  which  is  far  broader  than  your  own path”, as Alfred Schnittke once said. “You can pursue this path, in the same direction or a different one, but it is always a small deviation from the great path.”Alfred Schnittke pursued his path consistently, even when this path became stonier during his final years, when  despite  suffering  three  strokes  he  continued  to find the way back into his creative work. Schnittke was born on 24 November 1934 in Engels, the capital city of the former Volga- German Republic. He began his  musical  education  in  1946  in  Vienna,  however,  where  his  father  (originally  from  Frankfurt/Main)  worked  for  a  Russian  newspaper  for  two  years.  Then the family returned to Russia, where Schnittke studied  composition  at  the  Moscow  Conservatory.  The  composer  was  then  himself  employed  as  a  teacher  at  the  Moscow  Conservatory  from  1962  to  1972, during which time his works became more wi-dely  known  in  the  West.  Finally,  in  1991,  Schnittke  changed   his   permanent   residence   to   Hamburg,   teaching a composition class at the Hamburg Music Academy  until  1994.  The  Alfred  Schnittke  Society  has its headquarters in Hamburg today; its aim is to promote  the  composer’s  oeuvre  and  support  musi-cological  study  of  his  works.  Marked  by  severe  illness  during  his  final  years,  Schnittke  died  on  3  August 1998.Schnittke’s  extraordinary  musical  language  –  from  its early origins and the emergence of polystylism up to the three music-theatrical works of the later years entitled Life  with  an  Idiot,  Gesualdo  and  History  of  D  Johann  Fausten  –  arose  from  a  highly  individual  view  of  the  composer  in  our  world,  and  also  of  the  extensive legacy of music history.“Each  person  builds  his/her  own  cultural  centre  in  the world,” Schnittke once said. “That doesn’t mean that he/she necessarily lives in Paris, in Darmstadt, Berlin  or  any  other  particular  place.  But  it’s  true.  I  have  the  feeling  that  this  cultural  centre  lies  in  a  meeting  place  that  doesn’t  exist  in  reality.  Namely  a meeting place between East and West, more pre-cisely between Russia and Germany – this meeting place is somewhere there. I don’t exactly know what that is, but that is the general sense of it.”

A Rich Treasure of Works

There is a great deal to discover in the revised and newly reissued works catalogue of Alfred Schnittke. The symphonic repertoire is extensive and contains many well-known works such as the nine symphonies and the Gogol Suite for orchestra, as well as hidden treasures such as the Five Fragments to Pictures of Hieronymus Bosch for tenor, violin, trombone, harp-sichord and strings, Ritual and the Hommage à Griegfor  orchestra.  The  instrumental  concertos,  ranging  from the violin concertos and cello concertos to the piano concertos, enjoy as widespread popularity as do  the  frequently  performed  chamber  works,  inclu-ding  the  work  series  Hymnus  I-IV  for  various  com-binations  composed  during  the  years  1974  to  1979.  Our  publishing  house  has  recently  issued  a  printed  edition of the Scherzo for orchestra (SIK 8840). This early  work  of  Alfred  Schnittke  had  been  preserved  in  the  composer’s  private  archive  for  a  long  time.  According to the composer’s widow Irina Schnittke, the work was probably written in 1957 at the time of his instrumentation studies with the Russian composer Nikolai Rakov during the course of the orchestration of  his  First  Piano  Quintet  of  1954/55.  The  Scherzo  was given its world premiere on 24 January 2016 by the  Polish  Radio  Orchestra  under  Michal  Klauza  in  Warsaw.The  Scherzo  was  composed  during  a  phase  during  which  the  composer  took  troubles  to  emancipate  himself from his musical models at that time in order to strike out on his own paths. As he once said whilst reminiscing in 1986, composition is not only a rational matter, nor is it merely a game. “I have this feeling, even  though  I  cannot  explain  it  exactly,  that  all  of  music is based on something that exists outside the sphere of music – on an order that is not only musi-cal. Music is one of many possible reflections of this higher  order.  For  this  reason,  all  musical  works  are  attempts at revealing a small part of this order.”

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