Tuesday 17 February 2015

International Record Review of the latest Schnittke review with Vladimir Jurowski

"The present release is certainly the preferred option at present"

We are delighted to see that our latest release 'Schnittke - 3rd Symphony' featuring conductor Vladimir Jurowski and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin  is getting a lot of media attention. Here we share the review published on International Record Review by Richard Whitehouse on their February edition:

Vladimir Jurowski has made numerous recordings for the Pentatone label, among these a fine paring of Shostakovich’s First and Sixth Symphonies. He here tackles a major work by Alfred Schnittke, which, not unknown in the UK (this century having seen London performances by Leonard Slatkin and Jurowski himself), has yet to be recognized as one of the major symphonic statements from the final quarter of the twentieth century: a work, moreover, that is likely to endure in terms of its intrinsic quality.

In his biography of the composer (Phaidon, 1996), the late Alexander Ivashkin considered the First, Third, and Fifth of Schnittke’s Symphonies as focusing on the inherent properties of the symphonic genre. Written for the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Kurt Masur, who gave the premiere in 1981 (Masur going on to premiere the Seventh Symphony with the New York Philharmonic), the Third is an avowedly ‘German’ symphony both in its stylistic allusions and inclusiveness of conception. Opening amorphously (with perhaps a nod to that of the second movement for Lutoslawski’s Second Symphony?), the initial Moderato builds across three successive waves of sound that make resourceful use of large forces. The anxious Mozartean theme that underpins the ensuing Allegro might seem almost perverse, were it not for Schnittke deriving it from the generative scale of the first movement: a logical and organic evolution, which, allied to the process of thematic ‘modulation’ intently pursued here, belies the fondly recalled cartoon of this composer creating and eclectic recipe from a rack of stylistic containers.

Having taken the first movement perhaps a shade too swiftly, and then found the right degree of nervous energy in its successor, Jurowski also has the measure of the third movement-a weighty scherzo whose remorselessly accumulating energy, urged on by manic activity from the percussion, implodes into glowering unison chords towards its apex: from out of which emerges, in notably Mahlerian fashion, a full-scale Adagio. In certain respects a formal and expressive template, this is less fractious than most of the finales Schnittke went on to write – reviewing elements from what has gone before with an obliqueness that does not preclude a purposeful evolution from emerging. All of which Jurowski conveys with conviction – maintaining inexorable momentum through the morass of intricate detail and on to a powerful apotheosis, then a B-A-C-H derived flute solo that concludes the work in a mood at once consoling and lamenting. A piece that continues to provoke and inspire in equal measure, it has lost little of its purely musical relevance after almost 35 years.

The Third Symphony has fared decently on disc, even though Gennady Rozhdestvensky’s pioneering account is currently hard to find, while Eri Klas’s often insightful rendering is let down by rough-edged playing and opaque sound. The present release, with assured playing from the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, wide-ranging sound and detailed booklet notes from Steffen Georgi, is certainly the preferred option at present: should Jurowski have in mind a Schnittke cycle from this source, one can only await future instalments with interest.

Richard Whitehouse