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Monday, April 16, 2012

Alfred Schnittke, Zwolf Bußverse, Stimmen der Natur, Choral Works

Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) is not a composer one can easily pin down. Unlike his contemporary Arvo Part, for example, who writes with an unmistakable signature style in much of his mature work, Schnittke combines old and new in various ways. His "Zwolf Bußverse" or "12 Pentitental Psalms", completed in 1988 and available in a new recording by SWR Volkalensemble Stuttgart under Marcus Creed (Hanssler Classic 93-281), utilizes a mixed choir in music that has the starkness of Orthodox chant and other old forms, yet also utilizes an expanded harmonic vocabulary and dissonace as part of the overall pallete of sound for expressive means.

It's a work that is performed beautifully by the SWR choir with a buoyantly live sound staging. All that later Schnittke was is there, complexity-in-simplicity, music both of and out of its time, the adroit handling of voicings. It's without a doubt one of his most compelling choral works.

The album rounds out with a short "Stimmen der Natur" (1972) for 10 women's voices and vibraphone. You can hear him working his way though the modernism of his time towards something the Psalms bring to life fully.

Recommended for all Schnittke admirers and those who want to get a grasp on the full spectrum of "post-" classicism in its full flowering.

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