Alfred Schnittke - Biography
Alfred Schnittke was born on 24 November 1934 in Engels, on the
Volga River, in the Soviet Union. His father was born in Frankfurt
to a Jewish family of Russian origin who had moved to the USSR in
1926, and his mother was a Volga German born in Russia. Schnittke
began his musical education in 1946 in Vienna when his father, a
journalist and translator, had been posted. In 1948 the family moved
to Moscow, where Schnittke studied piano and received a diploma
in choral conducting.
From 1953 to 1958 he studied counterpoint and composition with
Yevgeny Golubev and instrumentation with Nikolai Rakov at the Moscow
Conservatory. Schnittke completed the postgraduate course in composition
there in 1961, and joined the Union of Composers the same year.
He was particularly encouraged by Phillip Herschkowitz, a Webern
disciple, who resided in the Soviet capital.
In 1962, Schnittke was appointed instructor in instrumentation
at the Moscow Conservatory, a post which he held until 1972. Thereafter
he supported himself chiefly as a composer of film scores; by 1984
he had scored more than 60 films.
Noted, above all, for his hallmark "polystylistic" idiom,
Schnittke has written in a wide range of genres and styles. His
Concerto Grosso No. 1 (1977) was one of the first works to bring
his name to prominence. It was popularized by Gidon Kremer, a tireless
proponent of his music. Many of Schnittke's works have been inspired
by Kremer and other prominent performers, including Yury Bashmet,
Natalia Gutman, Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Mstislav Rostropovich.
Schnittke is the author of 8 symphonies, 6 concerti grossi, 4
violin concertos, 2 cello concertos, concertos for piano and a triple
concerto for violin, viola and cello, as well as 4 string quartets
and much other chamber music, ballet scores, choral and vocal works.
His first opera, Life with an Idiot, was premiered in Amsterdam
(April 1992). His two new operas, Gesualdo and Historia von D. Johann
Fausten were unveiled in Vienna (May 1995) and Hamburg (June 1995)
From the 1980s, Schnittke's music gained increasing exposure and
international acclaim. Schnittke has been the recipient of numerous
awards and honors; his music has been celebrated with retrospectives
and major festivals worldwide. More than 50 compact discs devoted
exclusively to his music have been released in the last ten years.
In 1985, Schnittke suffered the first of a series of serious strokes.
Despite his physical frailty, however, Schnittke has suffered no
loss of creative imagination, individuality or productivity. Since
1990,Schnittke has resided in Hamburg, maintaining dual German-Russian
Additional information at http://www.schirmer.com:
Historia von D. Johann Fausten cast, instrumentation, synopsis,
Gesualdo cast, instrumentation, synopsis, and review
June 1996 String Trio review
Other interesting links:
Viola Concerto recording at ECM Records
G. Schirmer/AMP Home Page
Send a note to the G. Schirmer/AMP Promotion Department.