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Alfred Schnittke: Film Music Edition / Berlin RSO; Frank Strobel

Notes & Reviews:

Alfred Schnittke as a composer of film music - that is a fact well known to anyone who has ever been concerned with Alfred Schnittke. However, only very few people are familiar with his actual work in the film music genre. This is all the more surprising since on the one hand, Alfred Schnittke wrote more than 60 film scores during the years between 1961 and 1984, and on the other hand, his poly-stylistic techniques found a nearly perfect equivalent in film. Since Alfred Schnittke suffered from the artistic regimentations like many contemporary composers in the USSR, and his works could often only be performed under difficult circumstances, his work for the film to a large extent contributed to his livelihood.

MusicWeb International, 19th May 2015
What we have here are scores painstakingly gathered together and recorded in excellent audio rather than original soundtracks...With an inevitable smoothing out of those rough edges that can charm and shock in those original film recordings, this is a collection very much worth acquiring.


Excellent film music from Afred Schnittke, wonderfully performed!
This four CD set consists entirely of film music written by Alfred Schnittke, and a treasure trove of melodical descriptiveness it is. With the exception of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, I have not seen any of the films that the music on this set featured. But that is on my list of things to rectify, as delightful as this music is I simply must see the films that the music was written for. That makes describing this set in the film-music context difficult, but on the musical front alone this is wonderful.

The first CD features music from “The Story of an Unknown Actor” and “The Commissar”, and it is clear from the opening phrases that the music is an integral part of the story being told. Fortunately, the liner notes describe each film, giving the plot and descriptions of the situations that the music frames. It is the second CD, though, that drives home the ability of Schnittke to capture emotional nuances in this medium in his music for “Clowns and Children”. There is childlike awkwardness, playfulness, and during the hospital sequence his utilization of the celesta and harpsichord is simply masterful. The music from the TV film “The Waltz” is pleasing and graceful, as well as a little off-kilter in the “modified” Blue Danube section (track 8). And I just loved the music from “Glass Harmonica” which features the celesta, harp, theremin (a really neat instrument that is not played by touch), Ekvodin (a Russian synthesizer per the liner notes), electric accordion, guitar, and organ. The way each was used I found fascinating.

The third disc contains music written for “Fairytales From The Wanderings” and “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”. The opening horns in the “Fairytales” music give way to pleasingly driven strings and piccolo, and the hints of Klezmer foundation to various sections is present in the themes-and-variations structure of the music. This entire suite is gorgeous, well put-together, and intellectually stimulating. I would definitely like to hear it performed live. And of course the music from “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” is familiar from childhood, but the instrumentation that Schnittke uses is very creative and allows him to evoke such precise emotionally tinged sonic textures that it is hard not to marvel at his creativity. Completing the set on the fourth CD is the music from “Sport, Sport, Sport” and “The Adventures Of A Dentist”, in which a charming Baroque movement (track 8) touches upon the music of both Bach and Handel in a very creative way.
This listener truly wants to tip his cap to Frank Strobel and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin for taking on this project and ensuring that this wonderful music has the chance to be listened to outside of the medium of Russian film. It goes without saying that they do the music justice and bring it to life brilliantly. Highly recommended!

Submitted on 08/03/15 by KlingonOpera 
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