ALFRED SCHNITTKE (1934-1998): 6 Preludes for Piano, Magdalina for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano (Liora Grodnikaite [mezzo], Drosostalitsa Moraiti [piano]), Dialogue for Cello and Soprano (Alexander Ivashkin [cello], Ensemble Pentraèdre de Montréal; Jeremy Bell), Yellow Sound for Pantomime, Instrumental Ensemble, Soprano and Mixed Chorus (Nelly Lee [soprano], Bolshoi Soloists' Ensemble; Alexander Lazarev. Rec. Jan. 6, 1984), Variations for String Quartet (Oleh Krysa, Natalia Lomeiko [violins], Konstantin Boyarsky [viola], Ivashkin [cello]).

Catalogue Number: 02M085

Label: Toccata Classics

Reference: TOCC 0091

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: These rarities, all but one receiving their first recordings here, chart Schnittke's career over some four decades. The early Preludes are fine, accomplished little character pieces by a young Soviet composer well versed in his Romantics - Chopin, Mussorgsky - and a touch of Scriabin. A decade later, Dialogue is a more recognizably characteristic work, an extended solo alternately eloquently pleading and angularly discursive, against a percussive barrage of commentary and opposition from the ensemble (with some extended technique and microtonal intervals). Another decade brings us to Yellow Sound a more experimental, extended multimedia piece based on a libretto by Vassily Kandinsky which attempted to bring several artistic disciplines together. Amplified voices - reciting, singing, vocalizing - resound surreally, accompanied by a somber landscape of instrumental texture with unusual instrumentation including electric guitar, more favored as an ensemble instrument by Schnittke than by many composers. Magdalina was suppressed by the composer, unjustly; an expressive, tragic Pasternak setting, it deserves a place in the canon of Russian song, with its peculiar brand of philosophical melancholy, of which so many fine examples exist. The very late quartet work, written after the composer's crippling strokes, is simple, gentle and wistfully sad.

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