Translated by Kenneth Chalmers
Alfred Schnittke and Polystylism
Alfred Schnittke owes his position among the most prominent composers of our day to three factors: the enormous scale of his output, the huge popularity his works enjoy, and the captivating emotional quality of his music. His astonishingly vast catalogue of works embraces music in every genre, from orchestral pieces to chamber music and numerous vocal works. In an age when we see many composers having a troubled relationship with the sympho- ny, he had the courage to write no fewer than nine such works.1 He was one of the most successful composers of our time. His 60th birth- day was celebrated with concerts and festivals in Hamburg, Stockholm, London and Utrecht. When three festivals devoted to his music were held in Sweden in 1990, no fewer than forty of his works were performed. There is already a com- plete edition of his works on CD. Tragically, he died at the relatively early age of 63 in Hamburg on 3 August 1998. In looking into the reasons for his enormous popularity, there are several factors to be taken into consideration: Schnittke was by no means an avant- garde composer, if we take the term to denote an artist who loves experimenting with sound above all else. He offers the listener a way in, and that listener hears something familiar in his music. Schnittke’s sound is understood by countless people all over the world, because his music – expressive, evocative and full of associations – has huge emotional power. More than ever before,...
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