Alfred Schnittke - A Life in Unresolved Contradiction

An unresolved contradiction accompanies the life of the composer Alfred Schnittke, who died in 1998 and whose seventieth birthday will be commemorated by the musical world on 24 November 2004. He himself formulated it this way: "There is always a question in my mind. I search for an answer, but haven't found it yet. The point of this question is that I, although not of Russian descent, am nonetheless bound to Russia and have spent my whole life in Russia." Schnittke's words were uttered in 1988. Shortly before his death his statement that he had spent his entire life in Russia would have had to be corrected. For he dedicated his last decade to the West, having settled in Hamburg and travelled to the world's great musical centres. This phase was marked by the repeated, horrible strokes that were finally to cost him his life. In 1985 the composer suffered his first, almost lethal stroke, and for a short time he was even considered clinically dead. After his recovery, which surprised everyone, a truly gigantic creative process began during which approximately half of his major works were composed.