Alexander Ivashkin

Alexander Ivashkin Plays Schnittke

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Alfred Schnittke's works for cello -- particularly the concertos and sonatas -- are among his most significant and mature compositions. The majority of the pieces heard on this two-disc set are a snapshot of the effects of the composer's first, massive stroke in 1985. After this incident, Schnittke's works became even more dissonant, aggravated, and pained -- what better instrument to capture this angst than the cello? What better cellist to record the concertos and sonatas than Alexander Ivashkin? He was one of only three performers (Rostropovich and Gutman were the others) for whom Schnittke composed works for cello. Ivashkin possesses many of the skills absolutely necessary for successful, convincing performances of Schnittke's music: extremely solid intonation, meticulous adherence to rhythmic precision, and an ability to make listeners focus on more than just the notes. Schnittke's works, especially these later ones, are filled with emotional and expressive content, and Ivashkin does a splendid job of delineating these features to listeners both through his informed playing and detailed liner notes. The Russian State Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Valery Polyansky, provides an excellent but unobtrusive backdrop during the concertos, matching the soloist's articulation and rhythmic fervor throughout. The piano part for the sonatas is played by none other than Irina Schnittke, the composer's widow. This again is a very pleasant match of talents. All together, this album is a must-have for fans of Schnittke's music and certainly for any collection of cello music.

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