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Alfred Schnittke (20th-Century Composers) [Paperback]

Alexander Ivashkin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

25 Sep 1996 20th-Century Composers
This biography of the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke (b.1934) presents a fascinating portrait of a man whose musical output is inextricably linked to the strictures of life in the former Soviet Union. For most of his adult life in Russia Schnittke's music was powerfully shaped by the frustrations of the Soviet period and he reacted strongly against the ideology of the era. His symphonies lie arguably at the end of the Germanic symphonic tradition, yet each represents a new concept of the genre for the twentieth century. His works reveal the influence of Shostakovich among others, but remain strongly original. Each of his compositions can be understood primarily to offer a unique synthesis of many different influences and styles. The author gives a detailed discussion of Schnittke's music and theories, arguing that the various stylistic elements in his works - his polystylism - may be perceived as part of a new, more universal language.


Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press Ltd (25 Sep 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714831697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714831695
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 15.5 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 808,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'So much of the material is new that this book is a must for anyone remotely interested in the subject.' (Gramophone) 'Ivashkin has written what is undoubtedly the fullest account to date in any language of Schnittke's life and work, and one which is unlikely to be surpassed.' (London Magazine) 'As a series, Phaidon's 20th Century Composers has brought remarkable variety and a welter of information, both necessary and delightfully trivial. Intended both for the general reader and for the more enthusiatically musical...' (The Scotsman)

About the Author

Alexander Ivashkin currently teaches the cello and Music History at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. An accomplished cellist and writer on music, he is also a close friend of the Schnittke family.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Phaidon specializes in beautifully made books about modern composers, and this one is no exception. Ivashkin, a friend of the composer's, provides a fascinating account. He dramatizes Schnittke's ethnic, national, and religious complexity, making him seem like the quintessential composer of the late 20th century. He includes details about Schnittke's background, friends and colleagues (and enemies), and personal and social life that might have been unavailable to someone who didn't actually know the composer. The publisher throws in many photos and illustrations, which themselves tellingly portray Soviet life--both the context of and the counterpoint to Schnittke's varied music. I would have preferred somewhat more analysis of the music itself (much of the commentary verges on the anecdotal--fun to read but often insubstantial), and more careful proofreading would have saved the pages from some pretty obvious mistakes. Overall, however, this book offers an enjoyable evening's read, and includes a comprehensive work list and select discography for shoppers. Recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book on Alfred Schnittke that you must have! 26 May 1999
By villegem - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is the perfect introduction to the life of the late composer. I learned many details about his upbringing and his influences.

Ivashkin has managed to give an overview of Schnittke and replaced him in the history of Soviet composers. The author let sometimes his own grief about the soviet system and some of its members set on fire his style...

Having discovered Schnittke's music abroad, I would comment that his music goes beyond the Russian borders and in this sense, Ivashkin's natural focus on Soviet ties may be only showing one side of the equation.

But he made me miss even more the opportunity to meet with Schnittke as he was in Banff in Canada few years ago. Thanks to the author a biography exists. Sadly it will have to be updated. I wished articles by Schnittke would be available in english as well as a more exhaustive interpretive catalog of his work and recordings. Thanks to Phaidon for a superb volume!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent Schnittke book 28 Mar 2002
By Moses Alexander - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is an excellent biography and overview of the music of Alfred Schnittke. The casual listener probably wouldn't be interested, but for those that love Schnittke's music this is a goldmine. It provides plenty of insight in the personal life of Schnittke and the events that helped shape his music. It details many of his personal political struggles (which would truly make comparisons to Shostakovich even clearer.)
There is also, of course, discussions on the music. No in depth analysis or anything, just good commentary on them. I don't have a musical education and the book was still quite enjoyable to me.
Another wonderful inclusion is the discography and the catalogue of works.
This will probably be the definative account of Schnittke's life (in English anyway.) One can only hope though that it will be updated as the book was written two years before Scnittke's death. I highly recommend this excellent book.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid account of Schnittke's life, written by a friend 13 May 1998
By a-robbn@microsoft.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Phaidon specializes in beautifully made books about modern composers, and this one is no exception. Ivashkin, a friend of the composer's, provides a fascinating account. He dramatizes Schnittke's ethnic, national, and religious complexity, making him seem like the quintessential composer of the late 20th century. He includes details about Schnittke's background, friends and colleagues (and enemies), and personal and social life that might have been unavailable to someone who didn't actually know the composer. The publisher throws in many photos and illustrations, which themselves tellingly portray Soviet life--both the context of and the counterpoint to Schnittke's varied music. I would have preferred somewhat more analysis of the music itself (much of the commentary verges on the anecdotal--fun to read but often insubstantial), and more careful proofreading would have saved the pages from some pretty obvious mistakes. Overall, however, this book offers an enjoyable evening's read, and includes a comprehensive work list and select discography for shoppers. Recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars some problems with this book 9 Jun 2006
By Henry Cohen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a good, quick read, and, as it is apparently the only biography of Schnittke (at least in English), it will have to do. But it has more than a few printing errors; words are missing not only between pages 141 and 142, as another reviewer noted, but between 123 and 124; in addition, some lines are repeated on successive pages and there are other typos. Substantively, I did not feel after finishing the book that I knew what Schnittke was like as a person, other than that, later in life, he became a Christian of a mystical, if not crazy, bent, although the author would never put it negatively like that; he writes not a negative word about Schnittke or his music (though he does call him "a great human being"). Another problem with the book is that some of the author's descriptions of the music are almost meaningless (though I acknowledge that it is difficult to describe music). Examples include, "At the end of the symphony Shostakovich appears to draw aside real space, transporting us from gloomy everyday occurrences into the infinity of astral space." Or, "At times a particular interval becomes the principal character of a work. ... All these symbols ... ultimately enable one to widen the frame of the music as though into outer space." Finally, the author repeatedly refers to Schnittke's popularity and the throngs who attend performances of his music. I am only lately acquiring a taste for Schnittke's music, but it is an acquired taste, and I remain sceptical of the author's claims as to his popularity.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good description of a remarkable life 27 Aug 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
it is so difficult to find information about late 20th century composers. it is all the more remarkable when one finds a breezy, readable text devoted to the extraordinary life path taken by alfred schnittke. this book covers schnittke's upbringing, noth personally and musically. it is especially interesting as a study of the intrigue attendant to the title of "soviet composer". ironically enough, 60s soviet union was one of the few places where dissent and symphonic music were both taken seriously enough that forms of music could be deemed a threat. and, as this book details, schnittke dissented in more than merely his form of music. the book's major weakness is that it assumes a working knowledge of schnittke's music and its differences with other 20th century orchestral music. author ivashkin is himself an accomplished new zealand musician and what is second knowledge to him is not so well known to lay readers, such as myself, who can be fascinated by the lovely discordant wierdness which is schnittke. he does discuss the music quite a bit, though, and his style of never staying too long on any one compostition or life event is in keeping with the pace of modern life. it's not quite a beach book, but i found it a very easy read. recommended highly.
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