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Schnittke: Piano Quintet / String Trio CD

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Product details

  • Performer: AFCM Ensemble
  • Composer: Alfred Schnittke
  • Audio CD (6 Nov. 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00004YYQV
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 178,315 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song TitleArtist Time Price
  1. Fugue: Fuga for Solo ViolinMark Lubotsky 4:46£0.79  Buy MP3 
  2. Klingende Buchstaben: Klingende Buchstaben for Solo CelloAlexander Ivashkin 4:21£0.79  Buy MP3 
  3. Piano Quintet: ModeratoIrina Schnittke 4:58£0.79  Buy MP3 
  4. Piano Quintet: In Tempo di ValseIrina Schnittke 5:44£0.79  Buy MP3 
  5. Piano Quintet: AndanteIrina Schnittke 5:40£0.79  Buy MP3 
  6. Piano Quintet: LentoIrina Schnittke 3:54£0.79  Buy MP3 
  7. Piano Quintet: Moderato pastoraleIrina Schnittke 4:04£0.79  Buy MP3 
  8. Stille Nacht: Stille Musik for Violin and CelloMark Lubotsky 6:21£0.79  Buy MP3 
  9. String Trio: ModeratoAlexander Ivashkin13:33Album Only
10. String Trio: AdagioTheodore Kuchar11:30Album Only

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BBC Review

Schnittke's uniquely drawn visions of despair, irony, violence and nostalgia cannot help but exert a powerful spell over even the most sceptical of listeners. The uncompromising directness of expression often reminds one of his great predecessor Shostakovich whose influence is particularly tangible here in the shadowy waltz of the Piano Quintet and in the eerie trills that haunt sections of the String Trio.

The current catalogue already boasts fine authentic performances of both these works from Ludmilla Berlinsky and the Borodin Quartet in the Piano Quintet (Virgin) and the all-star line-up of Kremer, Bashmet and Rostropovich (EMI). But this new recording made during the 1999 Australian Festival of Chamber Music can claim an equal degree of authenticity in featuring the composer's widow Irina Schnittke as pianist in the Quintet and some of his closest collaborators such as violinist Mark Lubotsky and cellist Alexander Ivashkin. That said, I still much prefer the Borodin performance, which carries even more conviction and finds extra emotional dimensions in passages such as the gently undulating piano line in the concluding movement. In the String Trio, matters appear more evenly balanced, though EMI's recording has greater refinement and accommodates a wider textural and dynamic range. Still, it would be unduly churlish not to applaud Naxos's enterprise for including a number of rarely heard miniatures and undoubtedly helping to bring Schnittke's music to a much wider public.

Performance ****
Sound ****

© BBC Music Magazine 2001

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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By I. Hagues on 28 April 2005
Format: Audio CD
The main feature of this disc is the Piano Quintet. It's a quite challenging piece to listen to, yet ultimately sublime and rewarding music. However, it soon becomes obvious that the balance of the ensemble is not right and on extended listening, this becomes quite annoying. The complexity of the different layers of music demand attention to detail and a seamless performance. Schnittke states that one of the aspects of his music is to create a feeling of 'continuous tension'. We get this here, but for all the wrong reasons.

The recording quality is not great either, certainly not demonstration class. This is a real shame, as the music deserves better. Also check out the Keller Quartet's version of the Piano Quintet on ECM (coupled with Shostakovich String Quartet no.15) which is well recorded and very communicative.
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2 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Aquinas on 5 May 2008
Format: Audio CD
This music has something of the night about it - the deep abyss of night!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Weeping Russian Music 16 Jan. 2003
By Christopher Forbes - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Up until I got this disc, I had little interest in the music of Schnittke, though I had heard him praised to the nines in the pages of Fanfare. I had heard one piece before that had struck me as forbiding and had not explored the composer in any more depth. My loss. This CD, at it's bargain price, induced me to try a little more Schnittke and I'm glad I did. This music is haunting and profound.
The two major works on this disc are the Piano Quintet and the String Trio. Both are sustantial, dark works in a "weep for Russia" kind of style. Schnittke obviously shows influence of Shostakovitch, and through the older Russian, of Mahler, Bruckner, Brahms, name it. But he also includes techniques pioneered in the 60s in Germany France and Poland. Of the two large pieces, the Quintet is nominally more interesting. The piece is a heartfelt response to the death of the composer's mother. The string writing is dense, with the piano often chiming in on one repeated note, like a bell toll. Several movements contain the ghost of an old waltz, twisted beyond recognition. The language careens between tonal, and violently atonal and even microtonal. However the conclusion of the piece, in unadulterated major, is a true apotheosis. It moved me to tears.
The Trio is also a beautiful and very moving work. Set it a primarily dissonant serial language, windows open up in the work where romantic motives and lush triads ring through for a few seconds. What amazes about Schnittke's style in these works is how beautifully it all holds together. The works never feel like a pastiche. The tonal material is integrated into the overall framework in some mysterious way that I can't quite put my finger on. (Are there motivic connections? Is it something deeper?) As such, it seems more of a piece than much of the work of more quotational composers like Rochberg, fine as he is.
The smaller works on the album are also effective. The duo for Violin and Piano shows Schnittke's mastery of string writing. The sound is so rich and full that you rarely are aware that there are only two instruments, yet, the players never sound taxed beyond their limits. The solo cello work is lovely and the Fugue is a fun piece of juvenilia. On the whole, a terrific program
Performances seem excellent to me. Naxos has a genius for coaxing terrific performances out of relatively unknown musicians, at least unknown to the general public. This Australian group is no exception. I hope this is not the last disc they record.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Follow Up Review 2 July 2008
By Reviewer - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Yesterday I reviewed the Borodin String Quartet's performance of Schnittke's Piano Quintet, with Ludmilla Berlinsky at the keyboard. That CD, I'm sad to say, is available now only at inflated used prices. This performance of the Quintet, by the string ensemble of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music with Irina Schnittke on piano, is remarkably different from the Borodin version - a good deal harsher and fiercer, more angry than mournful - but very skillfully played. At the Naxos bargain price, I recommend it unconditionally. Hey, I'm pleased to have both CDs.

The Piano Quintet was composed in the wake of Schnittke's mother's death; it is dedicated to her memory. This AFCM performance has, to my ears, a powerful concept of the work. The piano is on a path of beauty and resignation, while the strings snarl and mock any easy consolation, reminding us of the harsh joys of life. While the Borodin performance reminded me considerably of Shostakovich, this AFMC version brings the influence of Mahler on Schnittke more to the fore.

Also performed on this CD are works for strings ranging from Schnittke's adolescent (1953) Fuga for solo violin to his Klingende Buchstaben for solo cello (1988). The last and longest work on the disk is a String Trio written in 1985 on commission to be performed in Vienna in commemoration of the anniversary of Alban Berg, whose music also influenced Schnittke. It's a more somber and convulsive work than the Piano Quintet, and one that ends with a haunting diminuendo into silence.

Though recorded in Australia, this performance features several Russian musicians who knew and worked with Schnittke himself before his death in 1998. In particular, the violinist Mark Lubotsky had the privilage of premiering Schnittke's violin concertos. Alexander Ivashkin was the principal cellist of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra during Schnittke's active years in Russia. Lubotsky and Ivashkin are the performers of the two solo fantasies recorded here, both of which inevitably remind me of Bach's solo string sonatas. The cello work, Klingende Buchstaben, asks the cellist to draw sounds from his instrument unlike any you've heard before; it's a subtle, somber study of sound and silence interspliced.

On the whole, I prefer Schnittke's chamber music to his orchestral works, especially in recorded performances. These Russian fiddlers make him a more tormented soul than I have imagined him to be. Perhaps they're right, though his photos show a man with a gentle, forgiving smile.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
70 minutes of really sad, angry, beautiful music 5 Mar. 2001
By vic spicer - Published on
Format: Audio CD
if you've never heard schnittke, start here. if you've heard schnittke but didn't much enjoy his work (as i did) also start here.
solo pieces for violin and cello are edgy and quite daring.
the core of the CD is the 1976 piano quintet. this is possibly the most terrifying, sad and deeply disturbing chamber piece i've heard in ages. it's literally haunted- there's a little waltz that drifts around tracks 4 and 7 like a ghost-- truly chilling.
this is also the 2nd recording of "stille music" on naxos; amazing, desolate emptiness.
my only tiny complaint is that it's been very closely miked; you can hear the performers breathing in some places.
why does so much great music come out of the townsville city chamber music festival? big praise for naxos for making this wonderful playing available at a bargain price.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Mournful works for strings and piano performed by those who knew and loved Schnittke 12 Sept. 2006
By Christopher Culver - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This Naxos disc collects five pieces by the late Russian composer Alfred Schnittke. The first is recently rediscovered youthful work in its world premiere recording, and we then skip over his dabbling in serialism in the 1960s to music from later periods. The performers here are virtuosi, many of whom knew Schittke personally, such as the composer's widow Irina Schnittke on piano, his biographer Alexander Ivashkin on cello, and a dedicatee of several works, Mark Lubotsky, on violin. The pieces were recorded live at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music (hence the advertisement in the liner notes for the Townsville City Council) but all sound superb.

"Fuga" for solo violin (1953) appears for the first time here. Written when the composer was only 19 years old, this fugue hints much at the restricted musical life of Stalinist Russia in its ability to channel Bach so directly without interference from 20th century musical developments. A pizzicato passage between two arco portions divides the work cleanly in half. While entertaining enough, the piece seems totally unconnected from the rest of Schnittke's career, and so ultimately comes across as fairly unsubstantial.

Schnittke wrote his great "Piano Quintet" (1976) in memory of his mother, though many believe it to be mourning for Shostakovich as well. Opening with sorrowful pointilistic piano writing, it strikingly transforms into a gentle waltz, which is then intensified in tempo and dynamic until any element of fun in its swinging motions is overcome by tears. There follows a string threnody marked Andante . Schnittke has always had a talent for stunning endings--witness the Cello Concerto or the Concerto Grosso No. 2--and in the efervescent notes of the final "Moderato pastorale" the mourning of the previous four sections is slowly but firmly replaced by acceptance and peace.

The "String Trio", written in the spring of 1985, is one of Schnittke's last overtly polystilistic pieces--his first stroke later in the year changed his style drastically--and it is one of his most profound. Originally commisioned for the Alban Berg's centenary, the piece explores the general theme of earlier Viennese music as seen by a composer in a very different place and time. It is also bound up with Schnittke's brief residence in Vienna in his youth, when the city of so many musical heroes had been ravaged by war. Its musical basis is on the one hand fairly simple, a recurring six-note cadence, but on the other hand this twenty-minute work ranges through all sorts of styles in its repetition of this theme, from elegant classicism to melodramatic romanticism to the Soviet tradition.

"Stille Musik" (1979) is a brief piece for violin and cello that is probably my favourite here, a rich landscape of various sounds that avoid any fixed points but which nonetheless have a clear dramatic arc. Pizzicato and microtones give it some exotic touches. "Klingende Buchstaben" for solo cello (1988) is the latest piece represented here and the only one in his later style. The polystylism and hints at romanticism of his earlier material are gone, and instead we find a new clarity of texture and aggression.

If I rate this disc less than five stars, it's only because I'm partial to Schnitke's orchestral works. After getting used to the expanded timbres of the "Viola Concerto", "Cello Concerto No. 1", and the concerti grossi, these chamber works sound a tad bit lacking. Nonetheless, for fans of the composer who seek a budget introduction to some of the more sombre parts of his oeuvre this is a worthy buy. The strength of the performances and the renowned players make it all the more recommended.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
About the Fugue 3 Jun. 2002
By Howard Ross - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Being a Schnittke completist i got this disk for the premier recording of the solo violin fugue....written in 1953 when the composer would have been 19 the work is suprisingly mature and stylisticaly consistant with his late works. The works are well recorded and performed by seasoned Schnittke performers.
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