ALFRED SCHNITTKE (1934-1998): Symphony No. 3

Catalogue Number: 02Q062

Label: PentaTone

Reference: PTC 5186 485

Format: SACD hybrid

Price: $19.98

Description: It's been a long time since there's been a new recording of this magisterial symphony, so this one is very welcome. After the wonderfully, absurdly, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink polystylistic extravaganza of the First Symphony, and the powerfully moving spiritual-religious choral Second, this is Schnittke's German Philosophical symphony, a kind of history of German symphonic thinking compressed into a bit less than an hour. The work is still a product of the composer's polystylistic phase, but here Schnittke's borrowings - or as he waggishly put it, 'forgeries' - are drawn from a more restricted pool of resources. The opening channels Wagner in overlapping Ivesian layers that suddenly resolve into almost-quotations, and in the course of the first movement, material is constructed from musical monograms derived from an encyclopaedia of German composers' names and allusions to their styles. This monumental edifice is followed by a fleet-footed, effervescent scherzo, juxtaposing elegant classicism, hectically motoric modernistic scurrying, caricatured popular styles and Baroque pastiche. The next movement is a bitterly sardonic, ungainly march, sinister and vulgar, scored with Schnittke's characteristic unusual timbres, including his unmistakable use of the electric guitar as a 'normal' orchestral instrument. This degenerates into mindless percussive pounding, which suddenly winds down into the finale, a radiant Mahlerian adagio, layering farewell upon farewell in strands of yearning, soaring melody. A final tribute to Bach, and this epic work subsides into stillness. RSO Berlin; Vladimir Jurowski.

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