This BIS disc is one of the most little-known in the label's whole Alfred Schnittke edition. It contains one installment in the Russian composer's concerti grossi, and two arrangements of earlier pieces.
The "Concerto Grosso No. 3" for strings, bell and harpsichord (1985) seems almost like a sequel to the Second, as it begins and ends with the same quotation from Bach's Brandenburg Concertos that appeared throughout its predecessor. At the beginning the Brandenburg motif is played on strings, but at breakneck pace, and then at the sound of the bell the strings descend into bitterly dissonant clusters. Between the bookends of the Bach, this concerto grosso is a shadowy and often spare work, a nocturnal flight over a shattered landscape, and suggests the transition from Schnittke's polystylistic period at its most zany to his enigmatic late works. I like this performance more than Chailly and the Concertgebouw on a Decca recording, but both are rather less satisfying than another recording I once found on the Internet and was never able to identify.
The Sonata for Violin and Orchestra (1968) is an arrangement of Schnittke's Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, with the piano part replaced by harpsichord and strings. The music here is a product of Schnittke's serialist phase of the 1960s, but Schnittke's pursuit of modernism was more along the lines of Berg than the Darmstadt school, and his music remained reminiscent of a conflict ultimately followed by tentative spiritual peace. The tension of two movements of thorny atonal writing is broken in the third movement by a mere handful of sublime chords, and then the fourth movement reconciles the two strands to moving effect. The arrangement and the original both have great value, with the role of the harpsichord in the arrangement giving it an added drama over the more austere duo sonata.
The "Trio Sonata" is Yuri Bashmet's arrangement for string orchestra of Schnittke's String Trio of 1985. This is a powerful work where a simple melody reminiscent of something from the early Romantic era is subjected to constant variation ranging from elegant classicism to the most brutal dissonance. Completely gone is the zanyness and sense of conflict between opposing sides from the Concerto Grosso--if there is conflict here, it's an internal one. I must say that I prefer the original String Trio--the orchestral expansion doesn't offer any new insights. Furthermore, the conductor here takes it too slow.