Riccardo Chailly / Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Schnittke: Concerto Grosso No. 4 - Symphony No. 5; Concerto Grosso No. 3

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The music on this Decca release was recorded in 1990, issued in 1992, and reissued in 2015, when it finally reached top chart levels. It's not surprising that it had to await reissue to connect with audiences: the mixture of styles in the works of Russian composer Alfred Schnittke became commonplace enough in the mid-2010s, but in 1992 it was quite a shock in a musical world dominated by modernism and a small, but growing, band of neo-Romantics. Schnittke, reminding one by turns of Stravinsky, Mahler, and perhaps Lukas Foss, fell into neither group. Stravinsky's Baroque-style pieces dominate as influences in the five-movement Concerto Grosso No. 3 that opens the program. The awkwardly titled Symphony No. 5 (Concerto Grosso No. 4) begins with similar ideas: essentially, it starts out as a concerto grosso, but then throws other ingredients into the mix as it goes along. That may seem a bit odd, but the way of thinking is entirely characteristic of Schnittke, who successfully transplanted Mahler's world-encompassing aims to a modern context. Chailly and the Concertgebouw Orchestra commissioned this work, and the precise playing of the orchestra, even in the score's more extreme passages, shows that careful preparation was involved in the group's new premiere. Highly recommended.

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