The publication of Alfred Schnittke’s Collected Works is a joint project of the Compozitor Publishing House • Saint-Petersburg and the Alfred Schnittke Archive at Goldsmiths College, University of London. This critical edition is intended for performers, scholars and music lovers interested in Schnittke and his music. Its main purpose is to provide them with access to his scores, which are not readily available in Russia or elsewhere. All the scores have been checked against Schnittke’s manuscripts and existing publications of his music аnd have been edited by leading performers who collaborated with the composer.
Schnittke’s late compositions — both chamber and orchestral — represent a search for a new style, in which a limited lexicon of musical elements is used with utmost economy. The composer reappraises the nature and meaning of intervals, chords and clusters. He also comes to a new understanding of how diatonic, chromatic and quarter-tone intervallic structures can function as primary resources for musical language and form. The emotional level, always significant in Schnittke’s music, is here expressed through the deep meaning afforded to very simple musical ideas as they appear in various incarnations. The composer invites us to watch and to listen as these musical elements are “cleaned” and presented anew through radical decontextualisation.
Schnittke took a great interest in the music and ideas of Josef Matthias Hauer (1883-1959), who devised a twelve-tone technique that pre-dated Schoenberg’s and that worked in a different way. Hauer’s music has a clear, crystalline quality that is also apparent in the musical textures of Schnittke’s final works including: Violin Sonata No. 3, Cello Sonata No. 2, Piano Sonata No. 3, Variations for String Quartet, Symphony No. 9 and Concerto No. 2 for viola and orchestra. Schnittke wrote of his first impressions of Hauer’s music: “…I had a feeling that I had encountered — in a different way — something that is also found in Webern’s music. I encountered a sense of calm, organic in nature and based on the music’s crystallised and well-balanced structure... there is, of course, something symbolic about this music, it lives on the border between the real and the unreal, the point at which positive and undoubtedly real things... meet those that cannot be implemented in the real world.”