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A Schnittke Reader (Russian Music Studies) [Hardcover]

Alfred Schnittke , Alexander Ivashkin , John Goodliffe , Mstislav Rostropovich
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2002 Russian Music Studies
'I have read all of Alfred's articles with enormous interest and enjoyment...[He] had such a profound insight into the music of other composers, and ...he found in it so many regular features that were hidden from others' - Mstislav Rostropovich, in the Preface. The compositions of Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) are known for their exquisite construction, their unlikely embrace of material from disparate sources, their predisposition for melancholia, and their tremendous beauty. His German, Jewish, and Russian background seemed to make him something of an outsider wherever he went. This book is one of the composer's last works, created (characteristically) from his essays in various languages, materials published in various places or nowhere, supplemented with an interview with a friend (cellist and scholar Alexander Ivashkin), always keenly perceptive, illustrated with musical examples in his own hand, and coloured with the sadness of his death.In his "Schnittke Reader", the composer speaks of his life, his works, other composers (especially his Russian associates), performers, a painter, a writer, and a broad range of topics in twentieth-century music, from the mixing of styles to jazz to tone colour to paradox in Stravinsky. The volume is rounded out with reflections of some of Schnittke's contemporaries. This English translation, prepared by John Goodliffe, working in association with Ivashkin and with series editor Malcolm Hamrick Brown to ensure the reliability of this edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (1 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253338182
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253338181
  • Product Dimensions: 26 x 19 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 770,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"I have read all of Alfred's articles with enormous interest and enjoyment... [He] had such a profound insight into the music of other composers, and ... he found in it so many regular features that were hidden from others." --from the foreword by Mstislav Rostropovich "This collection of writings by or about Alfred Schnittke, including many previously unpublished, is a major contribution to our understanding of the most important Russian composer of recent times."--Classical Music, 4 January 2003 "This collection of writings by or about Alfred Schnittke, including many previously unpublished, is a major contribution to our understanding of the most important Russian composer of recent times."--Classical Music, 4 January 2003

About the Author

This English translation, prepared by John Goodliffe, working in association with Ivashkin and with series editor Malcolm Hamrick Brown to ensure the reliability of this edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
IVASHKIN: There is such a marked difference between twentieth-century culture and the cultures that preceded it that some commentators have been inclined to suggest that in the twentieth century a new, fourth age in the development of human civilization has begun. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Schnittke's in depth analysis 17 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a really really good book. I recommend it to anyone intrested in Schnittke's music, or anyone who wants to read the extremely depthful analysis
of Schnittke, about others music (like Bartok, Stravinsky, Webern and Ligetti).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Biographically uninformative 26 Jun 2011
By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Beautifully bound and presented, with its snow-white cover, it is such a shame that the contents of this book cannot be judged thereby. The early essays give some tantalising indications of the sharpness and originality of Schnittke's cultural criticism, and also the profundity of his exotic mysticism, at least at the time of writing. For the most part though the book consists of polite panegyrics to long-dead Soviet artists, and heavily technical analyses of generally obscure modern works. As someone coming to the book with only the symphonies thus far under his belt, it does absolutely nothing to address the central mystery that must confront everyone who approaches these works: what happened between Symphonies Nos.5 and 6? Why did the magnificent opulence and teeming complexity of the huge early canvasses give way to the terse and generally rather sad minimalism of the later works? Was this purely reflective of a change in artistic philosophy, or did something more fundamental happen? Just how damaging were these strokes that afflicted him, and just what faculties did they compromise. Is his opting for a style more sensitised to the basic values of melody and far simpler harmony and rhythm in any way a consequence of cognitive deficits? And why are the latter works so unmitigatedly gloomy, if still austerely beautiful? What were the psychological consequences of his struggles with the Soviet authorities? Did they have ultimate physiological consequences? What was trajectory of Schnittke's faith and mysticism over his lifetime? Certainly the latter symphonies give no indication of a man inspired by faith? They rather suggest a consciousness whose faith in anything, divine or human, has been blasted away by intolerable experiences. On the dust-jacket Schnittke stares out at us, frank and kind, half man, half angel, yet this book does nothing to dispel the enigmatic aura that surrounds this extraordinary composer.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A deeper insight into Schnittke's world 16 Sep 2003
By villegem - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The original book written in Russian was then translated into German. The German edition had many photographs, the only aspect I missed in this English abridged version. Otherwise Ivashkin conversations with Schnittke are very revealing of his world, and of his vision on the state of classical music.
The simple views that empty virtuosity is not enough, the view that the orchestra is like the universe, thus boundless and not an elitist frozen past are refreshing at a time where so many formations are in dire financial situation, principally because of the lack of imagination of their music directors. Check how many orchestras have programmed Schnittke's orchestra music this season and you'll understand...
The intricacy of good and evil, so present in his works are revealed to the reader.
Follows a series of more technical dissertations on XX Century works by other composers. I felt I was lacking the technical basis for fully benefiting from the discussion.
Portraits by friends were revealing about Schnittke but also about the friends own personalities: Rostropovitch preface in that regard is more about himself than anything else...
So in conclusion, a worthy effort in English by A. Ivashkin who should be commended for his relentless efforts in a time where the soup of the politically correct is our musical diet!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Almost no insight on Schnittke's own music, and his remarks on the music of others are no longer so fresh 27 Aug 2011
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Published in 2002, A SCHNITTKE READER is a collection of writings by or about the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke, edited by Alexander Ivashkin and translated into English by John Goodliffe.

The bulk of the material consists of Schnittke's writings on other composers' music. He did early analysis on Stravinsky's serial period, Ligeti's micropolyphony and Berio's polystylism at a time when this repertoire was still very new and little known in the Soviet Union. However, forty years later most of his insights will, I suspect, be common knowledge to fans of modernism. Schnittke also wrote some brief articles in praise of his contemporaries (e.g. Gubaidulina, Lubimov), but these are just little puff pieces and don't reveal much about their art.

I came to this collection hoping to understand Schnittke's music more deeply, but it's disappointing in that regard. There are few comments on Schnittke's own music, and the descriptions of the Concerto No. 1 or the Symphony No. 4 are as brief as CD liner notes. There are a few contributions by Schnittke's fellow musicians, but these are mostly mere recountings of the times they performed his music. An exception, however, is Gidon Kremer's piece which documents his changing relationship to the Schnittke's music.

All in all, I think A SCHNITTKE READER will be of limited appeal to Schnittke fans.
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