ALFRED SCHNITTKE (1934-1998): Complete Piano Music - Sonatas Nos. 1-3, Variations, Prelude and Fugue, Improvisation and Fugue, Variations on a Chord, 8 Little Piano Pieces, 5 Aphorisms, Sonatina for Piano Four Hands, Homage to Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich for Piano Six Hands, Cadenzas to Mozart's Piano Concertos K39, K467, K491 and K503.
Catalogue Number: 04P078
Description: These discs contain Schnittke's surprisingly small (for such a prolific composer who was also by all accounts a very decent pianist) published piano output. The substantial works are the three emotionally intense, even overwhelming, sonatas, all relatively late, dating from after his first stroke. After that 1985 watershed, Schnittke largely abandoned the extravagant polystylism of the previous decades although the 1987 First Sonata certainly bears traces of it in its unpredictable transitions between filigree, harmonically ambiguous threads of melody; frank atonality; solemn, devotional chorales, explosive clusters and the hectic canonic rush toward the bleak ending of the finale. The Second Sonata is stylistically similar, with somewhat greater weight given to the ambiguous chromatic aspects of the vocabulary, and follows a similar emotional trajectory. There is a marked change in the Third Sonata (1992), which is in Schnittke's increasingly pared down late style that followed his second stroke. Spare and austere of texture as it may be, the work is no less intense. The shorter works run the gamut from early, Romantic-Scriabinesque (Variations), Shostakovich-like miniatures (Pieces), through serial experimentation (fugues), to the 'late style' (Aphorisms). The cadenzas for four Mozart concerti, while nowhere near as outrageously polystylistci as his controversial one for the Beethoven Violin Concerto, are quirky, idiomatic and very effective; it would be good to hear them in context occasionally. Simon Smith (piano)