Yuri Bashmet

Schnittke: Concertos for Viola & Cello

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Born in 1934, composer Alfred Schnittke's most significant works did not come until much later in his career. Even his education at the Moscow Conservatoire did not begin until 1953, where he remained as a counterpoint instructor. The bulk of his composition around this time was focused on film scores, of which Schnittke wrote more than 50. 1985 marked a turning point for Schnittke, both personally and compositionally, for it was the year of the first of many debilitating strokes the composer was to suffer. The strokes had a clear impact on his composition as his works became much more somber, dramatic, and approachable. The two works heard on this Regis album -- the Viola Concerto and the First Cello Concerto -- were written immediately before and after Schnittke's first stroke, respectively. Some have even speculated that the Viola Concerto presaged the stroke. Both works are profoundly introspective and at times quite dark, requiring an immense emotional investment on the part of soloist and listener alike. Violist Yuri Bashmet and cellist Natalia Gutman, for whom their respective concertos were written by Schnittke, deliver commanding, definitive interpretations. Technique is pristinely solid in both players, allowing listeners to focus on the tremendous musical and emotional intensity that Bashmet and Gutman deliver. This album is a must-have recording of both of these works.

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