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Alfred Schnittke in Retrospect

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  1. Introduction
  2. Schnittke's music: An extreme Russian sound
  3. Elements of serialism in Schnittke's compositions
  4. Musical characteristics are demonstrated in Schnittke's compositions
  5. Problem that arises when discussing public reaction to Schnittke's music
  6. Schnittke's music: Melodic and emotional, and not in the least bit grotesque
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

?For almost thirty years I repeatedly saw one and the same dream: I would arrive in Vienna at long last. I would feel really happy, for I was returning to the most serene time of my life.? In this quote, Alfred Schnittke, in the final years before his death, recaps his pleasant times in Vienna, Austria. Schnittke, however, was not born in Vienna, but in Engels, on the Volga River, in the Soviet Union, on November 24, 1934. Schnittke's father was born in Frankfurt, Germany into a Jewish family of Russian descent, who later moved to Russia. His mother was a Volga-German, born in Russia. In 1946, Schnittke began his musical training in Vienna, before moving to Moscow, Russia in 1948. In Moscow, Schnittke was able to complete his music education at the Moscow Conservatory, where he also taught from 1962-1972. Following his teaching career, Schnittke began to compose film scores as a means for supporting himself. During this time, he studied with Evgeny Golubev, a Russian Soviet composer. Thereafter, he began composing music other than film scores, but became a target of Soviet bureaucracy. Later in his life, Schnittke suffered a series of strokes, and way actually pronounced dead on several occasions. After his stroke in 1985, Schnittke remained in a coma for quite some time, but partially recovered, and continued to compose music. A final stroke left him almost completely paralyzed, and he died shortly after that in 1998.

[...] Schnittke uses a range of tempos, in this piece, constantly changing speeds and rhythms. At one point, another Spanish type sound comes into the piece, and Schnittke uses arpeggio strikes, or broken chords, to signify the plucking of guitar strings. Lastly, there are times throughout the piece when both the left and the right hand are meant to play in parallel. This means that they play the same melody simultaneously, rather than a separate melody for each hand. Overall, this piece is open for interpretation. [...]

[...] In 1968, Schnittke chose to abandon serialsm and all of its complexities, and he developed something that he felt was more appropriate for his style of composing. He constructed a style of music that he called polystylism. Polystylism is the art of composing music in different layers. Various different styles, past and present, are abruptly juxtaposed in such a manner in order to create a dark-toned, serious style of music. Schnittke's music contains other elements that are unique to his style. [...]

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