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Inspired, Pulsing Scores: Events on the 75th Birthday of Alfred Schnittke

In August of last year, the musical world commemorated the 10th anniversary of the death of Alfred Schnittke. Now, on 24 November 2009, the great Russian-German composer who died in 1998 would have turned 75 years of age.
What he so appreciates in the music of Alfred Schnittke, the French composer Henri Dutilleux once said about his colleague, is the intensive pulsation that inspires his scores, frequently including vehement, indeed shocking passages that sometimes seem to have been dictated from a hallucination. During the course of the NDR broadcast series “neue musik,” a programme dedicated to Schnittke will be presented on 25 November, one day after his birthday. Less well-known recordings of works such as the Concerto grosso No. 1 in the version for flute, oboe, harpsichord, prepared piano and string orchestra preferred by Schnittke will be heard.

The ECM label issued a recording of Alfred Schnittke’s 9th Symphony with the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies in January 2009. A little later, another interpretation appeared on the Swedish label BIS with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Owain Arwell Hughes. On this CD, BIS also issued the Concerto grosso No. 1 in the alternative version for flute, oboe, and orchestra, expressly preferred by Schnittke, performed by Sharon Bezaly, Christopher Cowie and the Cape Town Philharmonic under Owain Arwell Hughes. Die new BIS-CD is to become part of a CD box with all nine symphonies of Schnittke.
The fourth and final CD in the published series with film music of Alfred Schnittke in suite adaptations by Frank Strobel will appear in May 2009 on Capriccio in co-production with DeutschlandRadio Berlin. This contains the suites “Sport, Sport, Sport” and “The Adventure of a Dentist.” The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra performs under the direction of Frank Strobel.
At the beginning of the Schnittke year 2009, the Hamburg Music Seminar resident in Altona, at the same time the headquarters of the German Alfred Schnittke Society, changed its name to “Alfred Schnittke Academy International.” The bronze bust of the composer by sculptor Milan Knobloch was solemnly unveiled in May. This was a gift to the Academy from Arvo Pärt.

The German Alfred Schnittke Society will publish a collection of writings with high-quality analyses and essays concerning Schnittke’s oeuvre to mark the composer’s 75th birthday. On the occasion of the jubilee, John Neumeier will return to his magnificent dance production “Streetcar Named Desire” this year; it first created a sensation in Stuttgart during the 1980s and then also in Hamburg. Alongside the “Visions Fugitives” of Serge Prokofiev, he uses, in particular, the legendary world premiere recording of the trailblazing 1st Symphony of Schnittke from Gorki. The revival of this production is scheduled for 14 November 2009.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Vladimir Jurowski, together with the London Sinfonietta and the Royal College of Music will be organising an extensive Schnittke Festival (15.11. - 01.12.) at the London Southbank Centre at the end of November 2009 under the motto “Between Two Worlds.” The concerts will include the following works: Symphony No. 3, Concerto grosso No. 1, a cross-section of the opera “History of D. Johann Faust,” the Viola Concerto “Monologue,” the 2nd Cello Concerto and “The Yellow Sound.” The artists participating include Leonidas Kavakos, John Tomlinson, Boris Petrushasky and Alexander Ivashkin. In addition, there will be a Symposium at Goldsmith’s College, London on 21 November and at Queen Elizabeth Hall on 22 November. Both events will be accompanied by a Schnittke exhibition.

» Trailer of the Schnittke festival

The Academy of Music and Theatre in Hannover will be organising an international symposium at the end of November 2009 on the occasion of the 75th birthday, reflecting on the production of Schnittke under the aspect of post-modernism and comparing the Schnittke reception in East and West Europe.
The Japanese Yomiuri Symphony Orchestra is planning the Japanese premiere of the oratorio “Nagasaki” under the direction of Gennady Rozhdestvensky for 29/30 November 2009 in Tokyo.
Yuri Bashmet can bed heard all over Europe during the 2009/2010 season in a series of chamber concerts in each of which he plays a work of Schnittke (e.g. the String Trio) with interpreter friends (Gidon Kremer, Oleg Maisenberg, etc.). In addition, he will also be appearing with various orchestras as a conductor of symphonic concerts in each of which, too, one or two works of Schnittke will be performed. These concerts will take place in Cologne, Eindhoven, London and Paris.


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