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2011 – A. Schnittke Requiem

2011 – A. Schnittke Requiem

Roman Kofman deviated from Alfred Schnittke
at The Great Names concert at the National Philharmonic
24.02.2011, 00:00
As part of Roman Kofman’s The Great Names project, the Kyiv Chamber Orchestra and the Credo Choir have performed music by Alfred Schnittke. According to LIUBOV MOROZOVA, the expressly restrained interpretation of expressive opuses by the classic of informal music of the Soviet era drew unexpected parallels with the heritage of his idol, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose complete set of symphonies Maestro Kofman performed in the previous season.

Roman Kofman’s The Great Names cycle by its very name indicates that it includes authors tested by the glory and time. However, many of the composers who have won this sonorous title are the Ukrainian conductor’s contemporaries and good friends. These include Giya Kancheli, who was present at his own recital in the Kyiv Philharmonic two years ago, and Arvo Pärt, whose 75th anniversary will be celebrated here in a month. The list also includes Alfred Schnittke, whose cooperation Maestro Kofman always recalls with reverence: when the works by the main conductor of the Soviet avant-garde were unofficially prohibited, he continued close communication with him and was bold enough to organize his first recital in Ukraine. It is noteworthy that at that concert the composer performed the harpsichord part himself, so he was able to monitor and directly influence the performance.


Today’s concert has become a kind of echo of that memorable event. It featured three opuses by Schnittke of the second half of the 1970s: Requiem (1975), Concerto Grosso No. 1 (1977) and Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra (1979). All of them, in spite of the tragic outlook and deliberately dissonant harmony, are not only very popular, but also have an already established tradition of performance: sharp, ragged and impulsive. Roman Kofman decided to approach them differently, rejecting historical and ideological implications and treating the composition in line with the absolute, non-program music. Of course, this interpretation blurred stylistic allusions and the play of meanings, collages (Schnittke’s trademark) almost completely disappeared, but what stood out was timelessness. The fact that this emotional distance was used by the conductor deliberately was also evidenced by the especially soft, light and naive performance by a guest Japanese pianist Izumi Goto, and by the perfect and harmonious performance by the duo violinists Vadim Borisov and Yulia Rubanova.

While the instrumental works sounded strange in this interpretation and lost in relief, Requiem, by contrast, was a success. According to the book of conversations with Alexander Ivashkin, a Russian celloist and musicologist, published long ago and widely known, the composer especially liked his Requiem performed by a small Tallinn choir. Schnittke called his funeral Mass a “naive” one, insisted on the need to streamline emotions and admitted that one of the parts, the echo-like Sanctus, came to him in a dream. In line with this approach, today’s Kyiv performance was simple and quiet, allowing the music to speak for itself. Most likely this was what made Schnittke’s music reveal parallels with the Mozart’s opus of the same name, which the composer himself carefully tried to conceal.

The Kommersant Ukraine, No. 29 of 24.02.2011, p. 4.