Wednesday 14 January 2015

Conductor Vladimir Jurowski talks about his feelings behind Schnittke's release

I fell in love with Schnittke’s Symphony at the age of sixteen

Schnittke's 3rd Symphony is one of our latest recording with Vladimir Jurowski conducting the Rundfunk‑Sinfonieorchester Berlin. Already available on our webstore, will be offically released worldwide on February. Schnittke is very close to the heart of the conductor. In this interview, Maestro Jurowski tells us more about his passion for this composer. 

Alfred Schnittke’s Third Symphony is one of the most fascinating pieces written for the large symphony orchestra in the last part of the XX century. For me personally it’s certainly up there with L.Berio’s Sinfonia, H.-W.Henze’s Seventh Symphony, S.Gubaidullina’s “Stimmen…verstummen...” and only another handful of pieces.

I fell in love with Schnittke’s Symphony at the age of sixteen when his orchestral music was just coming out “in the day’s light”, at least for those leaving in the Soviet Union (he was mostly well-know then as a composer of film-music). The things which I found most attractive in this symphony were predominantly the unusual pluralism of its language, the virtuosic game of musical styles and of course the breadth of extra-musical, philosophical ideas, around which this incredible symphonic construction was built. 

Having learned the piece from the LP record made by “Melodia” (Symphony Orchestra of the Ministry of Culture conducted by G.Rozhdestvensky) in mid 1980-s and having no access to either the full score or any other, Western recordings of this symphony, I have always been trying to dream up a situation in which one day I would come to conducting this piece myself… 

Eventually in recent years I have been able to perform this symphony several times with different orchestras and in different concert halls (including the New Gewandhaus Hall in Leipzig, where the piece had its world premiere in 1981). And every time I performed this piece I was confronted with acoustical limitations of the “live”performance, which had always some negative impact on the transparency of the score. It seemed almost impossible to make audible in a live performance what the eye would pick up from the sight of the score — there were simply too many layers of music enveloping at the same time!.. And even the already mentioned “Melodia” recording would not present a plausible answer to this riddle — not because of any flaws in the performance but due to the technical imperfection of the recording itself.

So eventually when I had received the invitation from “Pentatone” to record this piece in the studio with the superb Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, I said to myself: “This is your chance to get it right!!” All my previous experiences with Pentatone’s recording team were extremely positive, so I was convinced all the complex demands of this score would be 100% fulfilled in the final product, not least thanks to the exceptional qualities of the SACD technology, which is capable of giving the listener maximum feeling of presence in a live performance and at the same time maximum transparency (often much more transparency than physically possible in any live performance)!

And I am very happy that all my expectations got completely confirmed by this SACD. I am very hopeful that thanks to this recording Schnittke’s symphonic oeuvre will become better known among the international community of music lovers and that maybe more studio recordings of his symphonic music would follow.

Vladimir Jurowski