Symphony No. 1

After years as an experimental composer in the Soviet Union’s underground avant-garde, Alfred Schnittke (born in 1934 of Russian-German ancestry) has lately emerged as the master of an exhilarating iconoclasm, gleefully ingesting styles from Bach to rock and spewing forth a powerful new repertory. His first symphony (of five so far) dates from 1974 and embraces, Schnittke modestly claims, nothing less than ”the tragic and wonderful chronicle of our time.” And so it does; Symphony No. 1, with 64 uninterrupted minutes, jazz and brass bands parade by, woodwind soloists show off, an organ peals its thunder, and portentous beginnings of symphonic-style episodes are begun and abandoned, the music screaming out challenges and purring apologies. Chaos? Anarchy? There are those in the work; there is also the hand of one who both loves and respects his heritage, stirring the musical melting pot with precise and powerful strokes. A

Symphony No. 1
  • Music