Ewa Kupiec / Maria Lettberg / Petersen Quartett

Alfred Schnittke: Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Quintet; Piano Quartet

(CD - Delta Classics #DLT 90083)

Review by

Alfred Schnittke was one of the most significant composers of the late 20th century, and his music reached its peak of influence in the 1990s, its polystylism of particular interest to his post-modern contemporaries. Yet this eclectic use of stylistic references and quotations had been notable in Schnittke's music since the 1970s, so examples of it can be found in such pieces as the Piano Quintet (1972-1976), the Piano Quartet (1988), and the Piano Trio (1992), which occupy the first eight tracks of this intensely serious release by Delta Classics. These later chamber works are perhaps more accessible than the extremely angular and acerbic Piano Concerto No. 2 (1964), but newcomers to Schnittke's music in general may find this album a little forbidding, no matter which time period or style is involved. Even as Schnittke developed his language from an aggressive avant-garde edge to a more familiar sounding evocation of older music, the expressions he employed reflected his increasing health problems and withdrawal from the world. Because of this pessimistic tendency, the pieces on this CD are rather grim fare, and despite the assured playing of pianists Ewa Kupiec and Maria Lettberg, the Petersen Quartet, and the Mitglieder des Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchesters Berlin under Frank Strobel, this album is recommended for listeners experienced in Schnittke's oeuvre and avant-garde music.

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