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  • Schnittke: The Piano Concertos Nos. 1-3
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Schnittke: The Piano Concertos Nos. 1-3 Hybrid SACD - DSD

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Audio CD, Hybrid SACD - DSD, August 26, 2008
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Song Title Time Price
listen  1. Piano Concerto: I. Allegro 5:32$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Piano Concerto: II. Andante13:42Album Only
listen  3. Piano Concerto: III. Allegro 8:18Album Only
listen  4. Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra24:53Album Only
listen  5. Concerto for Piano 4-hands and Chamber Orchestra20:37Album Only

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Product Details

  • Performer: Ewa Kupiec, Maria Lettberg
  • Orchestra: Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
  • Conductor: Frank Strobel
  • Composer: Alfred Schnittke
  • Audio CD (August 26, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD - DSD
  • Label: Alliance
  • ASIN: B001BLR74E
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #517,940 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews


One never knows what kind of a surprise is in store when listening to the music of Russian avant-garde composer Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998). His work is wildly erratic, sometimes completely lost and seemingly inconsequential and other times feverishly brilliant. He remained a bit of an eclectic all of his life, from time to time reminding me of George Rochberg, but where Rochberg makes his conversion to a different style he tends to stick with it, while Schnittke lets the differing styles coexist in a parallel universe, with much mingling of the time zones through a sort of musical black hole. It is never unusual to be hearing a vast modernist canvass only to he interrupted by a distant cry from another era, not unlike a séance where a departed voice is struggling to get back to the world of the present and the living. But Schnittke also has a way of bringing these ghosts into the limelight, so that they become as real and relevant as the current moment; indeed, we are often not sure what time period we are living in when a Schnittke work is being played. This album is an important one, bringing together all three of his extant piano and orchestra pieces, the earliest one having just appeared a few years ago, a concerto from his immediate post-school years when he was only 26. It is a solo concerto of great conviction, hinting of Ravel in its chordal brilliance, Gershwin in its languorous slow movement, and a jazzy Prokofieff in the finale. This work should be taken up in the concert halls immediately. The second concerto is a piece for piano and strings, much more modern in its approach in that there are a plenitude of contrasting elements that play off one another, such as quiet triads challenged by swirling string configurations. All in all, a dialog of great intensity and conflicting tonal tenets that somehow find a way to coexist. The last concerto is for piano four-hands, and as you might expect, finds a great degree of thickened ivory sound in the contradictory stance of an instrument that by nature speaks with one voice yet also suffers internal conflict when dialoging with itself. Even in the orchestra each wind instrument gets to voice its opinion only once, and the trademark Schnittke harmonic tradeoffs between then and now are apparent everywhere. This one really took me by surprise. Pianist Ewa Kupiec plays these works with an unbridled authority while Mr. Strobel's Berliners seem to enjoy every moment. This is superb SACD sound, with a realistic and brilliant piano tonal quality and evenly distributed orchestral signals. Go for it, and be not afraid of Schnittke. --, Steven Ritter, October 2008

The tidal wave of music that washed West along with Russia's glasnost brought no composer more remarkable to us than the late Alfred Schnittke, who described himself as "a Russian without a single drop of Russian blood" and some of whose music was once described wittily by Richard Taruskin as "socialist realism without socialism." Schnittke was nothing if not prolific, so even now it's not uncommon for discs of his music to take the West by a little surprise. These three piano concertos -- the last for four hands -- deserve to be better known. What we'd call brilliantly eclectic music, Schnittke called "polystylistic." It is hugely varied music and the second for piano and string orchestra from 1979 is even more than a little reminiscent in its finale of a masterwork that has become tragically obscure in our time: Bohuslav Martinu's 1938 Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano and timpani. It's played as well as such music deserves to be for those of us hearing it for the first time. -- Buffalo News, Jeff Simon, October 2008

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Pontus T. on January 3, 2010
Format: Audio CD
It would be something of a stretch to say that I am an admirer of Schnittke's music in general. His clashing juxtapositions of traditional diatonics and modernist dissonances--referred to by himself as 'polystylism'--often sound more disturbing than intriguing. Granted, there are those who find him to be the answer to dead-end serialism--including no less than Robert von Bahr, founder and owner of Swedish BIS, who once told me Schnittke was his favourite 20th-century composer.

Piano Concerto 'No 1' is an early work, written in 1960 when Schnittke was still searching for his own voice--in other words, in his pre-polystylistic years. The first and third movements, reminiscent of Bartók, Khachaturian, Shostakovich and even Barber, show vast talent but relatively little originality. They are both tonal--based in E minor and C minor, respectively--largely built as motoric monoliths. What makes the Concerto memorable is the second movement, containing a soaring B-minor elegy fused with an ingenious pizzicato recapitulation of the first-movement motif and extensive Cadenza. Kupiec/Strobel gave the second-ever performance of this Concerto on 5 November 2005, whereas this disc constitutes its world-premiere recording, caught a few days before at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Berlin. They both sound entirely convinced that this forgotten work is a real find, delivering a performance that will likely hold up well against any future competition.

Written in 1979, the Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra signifies Schnittkian polystylism (Piano Concerto 'No 2' on this disc). Simple triads revolving around C minor are juxtaposed with string glissandi, bass clusters and motoric marches.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By villegem on November 21, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
3 stars for Frank Stroble's work in bringing Schnittke's film music repertoire out on a consistent basis and for unearthing the early piano concerto.
3 stars for Kupiec who does a good job in bringing this interesting score to light and is quite convincing throughout the piece. The slow movement reveals the potential Schnittke will demonstrate later on in his career. Just as the recent release of Nagasaki and Symphony O under the initiative of A. Ivashkin (BIS, see my review), it is a welcome addition to early Schnittke repertoire on disc.

However the other better known concerti are not on the same level. Kupiec is disappointing in the Concerto for Piano and Strings, so is Strobel.
As for the 4 hand piece, with Postnikova and Irina Schnittke playing it on Erato, re-released recently to boot, there is no need to look further.

So I recommend this CD for the early concerto only.

Post Scriptum:

A recent reviewer Dan Morgan from MusicWeb International wrote about the Concerto for Piano & Strings in this recording:

"The pensive opening to the single-movement Concerto for piano and string orchestra is most welcome, emerging with commendable clarity and naturalness. But it's only a temporary respite, the glowering bass and note clusters hinting at the more radical Schnittke of the 1960s. That said, there is an interior aspect to the music that comes across as surprisingly intimate. The pared-down orchestra - strings only - sounds weightier than one might expect, especially in the work's grinding unison passages. Strobel draws impassioned playing from his band, who dig into their repeated phrases with gusto.
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