Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998)

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Episodes

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01* *20100111

Donald Macleod explores Schnittke's early career, culminating in his oratorio Nagasaki.

Donald Macleod presents a celebration of the music of the USSR's last great composer, Alfred Schnittke.

He is joined by Alexander Ivashkin, cellist and professor of music at Goldsmith's College London to explore Schnittke's early career, culminating in his brilliant oratorio Nagasaki, a work that resulted in the composer's being blacklisted and removed from 'approved' lists of musicians for decades.

0220100112

Presented by Donald Macleod. Schnittke's polystylism and extraordinary First Symphony.

Donald Macleod presents a celebration of the music of the USSR's last great composer, Alfred Schnittke.

In the 1960s and 70s, Schnittke developed a unique style he termed 'polystylism' - the weaving of layer upon layer of subtle allusions, creating a world where everything has a hidden, suppressed meaning.

This technique perfectly captured life under the cosh of Soviet Communism, where messages were frequently disguised in layers of codes and doublespeak. Donald is joined by Alexander Ivashkin to present a selection of Schnittke's first polystylistic works, culminating in an extended excerpt from his astonishing First Symphony - a piece that takes the symphonic form to its very limit.

03*20100113

Donald Macleod explores three key Schnittke works from the mid-1970s.

Donald Macleod presents a celebration of the music of the USSR's last great composer, Alfred Schnittke.

In 1975, Shostakovich, the titanic figure of Soviet music, died. Schnittke inherited the mantle of the USSR's premier composer - one whose music encapsulated the absurdity, the banality and the struggle of life under the Soviet dictatorship.

Donald is joined again Russian music expert Alexander Ivashkin to explore three key works from the mid-1970s: his tragic Piano Quintet, written after the death of his mother; the plangent Four Hymns for instrumental ensemble; and the First Concerto grosso, described by the composer as featuring 'a joyful children's chorus, a nostalgic atonal serenade, a piece of 100 per cent guaranteed Corelli - made in the USSR - and finally my grandmother's favourite tango played by my great-grandmother on a harpsichord'.

04*20100114

Donald Macleod on Schnittke's battles with ill-health. With the disturbing Faust Cantata.

Donald Macleod presents a celebration of the music of the USSR's last great composer, Alfred Schnittke.

As a new era of openness dawned in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the West was finally able to meet this shy, brilliant composer in person. Yet - with tragic irony - just as Schnittke was at last able to enjoy the public acclaim he deserved, he was struck down by the first of a series of crippling strokes.

Donald is joined by Alexander Ivashkin, the composer's friend and biographer, to discuss Schnittke's life and works during this period. Featuring a complete performance of one of his greatest - and most terrifying - works: the disturbing Faust Cantata.

0520100121
05 LAST*20100115

Donald Macleod explores Schnittke's last works, including the Ninth Symphony.

Donald Macleod presents a celebration of the music of the USSR's last great composer, Alfred Schnittke.

Almost incapacited by a series of crippling strokes, Schnittke continued heroically to compose right until his death in 1998. Donald is joined for a final time by Schnittke's friend and biographer Alexander Ivashkin to discuss the composer's last work: his enigmatic Ninth Symphony, deciphered after his death from near-illegible scrawl by composer Alexander Raskatov.

Featuring excerpts from Schnittke's last film music - for an adaptation of Bulgakov's diabolical story The Master and Margarita - and his controversial opera, Life With An Idiot, a work that brutally sends up life in Communist USSR.