...including of course the subject peoples of the Russian Empire, the reluctant satellites, and some exiles who stayed Russian musically: Shostakovich foremost, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Kancheli, Gubaidulina, Part, and Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998), to name my personal favorites.
This inexpensive Naxos CD is an excellent introduction to Schnittke, yet also a worthy addition to the devoted Schnittke fan's collection. It includes an orchestral concerto, a chamber sonata, and a solo work for cello, all written in his most distinctive later style between 1978 and 1986. These three works display Schnittke's indebtedness to older composers as well as his originality. One quality of Schnittke's modernism is that he takes the music of the past as his recognizable subject; not that he re-composes but rather that he reveals his structural evolution, with the effect that his music never sounds arbitrary or wholly unfamiliar. The cello concerto resounds with memories of Tschaikowsky and Moussorgsky, by way of Shostakovich. The "Quiet Music for Cello", a study of tension and tranquillity, reminds me of Schnittke's study with the Viennese composers, Schoenberg and company. The Sonata for Cello, and Piano pays tribute to Shostakovich and, in the presto movement, very wittily to Prokofiev, the wittiest of the Russians; this exhuberant sonata was a good choice to balance the more somber concerto.
Schnittke composed in an era of turmoil, social and intellectual. His music is more often tumultuous and defiant than vivacious or beatific. If you have trouble enjoying Shostakovich or Prokofiev, you won't take readily to their heir apparent. Personally, I regard Schnittke as one of the greatest of our times.
Cellist Maria Kliegel was the Grand Prix winner of the Rostropovich Competition in 1981. She has recorded quite a number of the afore-mentioned Russian greats, including the cello concertos of Shostakovich and the cello music of Sofia Gubaidulina. She is of the generation of musicians influenced by the movement of "historically informed" performance practice, with its emphasis on transparency and balance rather than romantic tonal excess. I prefer her recording of these works to any other I've heard.