Alfred Schnittke's polystylism was part of the wave of post-modernism that swept through music in the last quarter of the 20th century, and his Symphony No. 3 is one of the most salient examples of this practice. The symphony is cast in the traditional four movements, though the outer movements are marked with slower tempos than the inner movements, so the conventional symphonic framework appears to have been turned inside-out. Yet the most surprising aspect of this work is Schnittke's freewheeling display of various historical and modern styles without using direct quotations, instead employing signifiers in the form of musical spellings (e.g., the name B-A-C-H spelled out in pitches). This indicates that Schnittke had chosen more abstract content than he had used in earlier quotation-laden works. This audiophile recording by Vladimir Jurowski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin provides a first-rate explication of Schnittke's method, in part because of the extraordinary sound of the multichannel recording, but also because of the compelling performance, which holds the listener's attention from beginning to end. PentaTone's reproduction creates a spacious audio field where myriad details are clearly separated, so the musical events are easy to sort out, even in the densest passages. A score may still be necessary to tease out the symphony's deeper mysteries, which are manifold, but Jurowski and his orchestra have given a performance that may be definitive for some time to come.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson