ALFRED SCHNITTKE: The Complete Piano Sonatas. Igor Tchetuev, p. – Caro Mitis

by | Oct 17, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

ALFRED SCHNITTKE: The Complete Piano Sonatas. Igor Tchetuev, p. – Caro Mitis multichannel SACD CM 0092004 ***1/2 [Distr. by Albany]:

Alfred Schnittke’s piano sonatas remind me of what happens when you
suddenly acquire a new pet, a kitten or puppy. While you’re getting
used to it, there is chaos and discord. Periods of calm, like the
second Lento of Sonata No. 1, suddenly erupt into shenanigans. It takes
patience to ease this creature into your life. Soon patterns of
behavior emerge, like the central theme of No. 1’s Allegro. While it
assumes many moods in the final movement, its basic physiognomy
remains, just barely peeking through.

I had a hard time getting through this SACD the first few times. True,
the sound is sumptuous and the Fazioli grand is responsive—not quite a
Bosendorfer, but more entrancing than a grumbly rumbly Steinway or a
humdrum stumblebum Baldwin. Tchetuev is a splendid pianist, with a
sense of drama and even intrigue as he careens through the more
mysterious segments of Sonata No. 2. But Schnittke’s strength lies not
in his solo pieces, but ensemble works, where he can pit instruments
against each other, rub them together and make sparks fly. He can also
use his considerable wit to squib hallowed composers, like Ravel and
Mozart. In these piano works, he makes me recall Shakespeare’s Henry
V’s quote about Fluellen: “Though it appear a little out of
fashion/There is much care and valour in this Welshman.”

I put the disc down for a month, then spent a Saturday afternoon
listening. My opinion gradually changed. Schnittke’s erratic tempos and
“wrong notes” started to make sense. I stopped trying to find
improvisations and fugal structure in the final and tastiest work,
Improvisation and Fugue. The Lentos in No. 2 and No. 3 became more
crepuscular than drawn out. And the way he snaps out of them into an
Allegro, like he does in No. 3, is startling. They’re not top-drawer
Schnittke—some of the Lentos (like the second one in No. 3) meander.
But if you listen closely, something intriguing always happens. This
kitten may not be retrieving the foil ball you thrown down the stairs,
but most of the time it returns it halfway.

– Peter Bates

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