Remembering Alfred Schnittke and the Soviet blacklist

Remembering Alfred Schnittke and the Soviet blacklist


norman lebrecht

October 13, 2013

It’s 15 years since he’s been gone and friends are recording memories of the off-message, dangerously eclectic composer’s constant struggle with the Soviet authorities. Here’s a rich interesting piece by Vasily Shumov, founder of Moscow’s first new-wave electronic band, with lots of unfamiliar pieces.


schnittke minion


  • At the NY premiere of his 6th at the pre-concert talk, Schnittke and Kurt Masur told the story of the premiere of the 1st. Masur had snuck into East Berlin in the trunk of a VW bug – just to hear the premiere. Who today would risk their life to hear a premiere and who would merit that risk!

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      That story doesn’t make sense. When Schnittke’s first symphony came out in the mid-70s, Masur already was a prominent and highly privileged member of the East German cultural elite. Unlike most GDR citizens, he could travel anywhere he liked, East *and* West, certainly to East Berlin. And in style – not in the trunk of a VW Bug, but in his own S class Mercedes.

      • PR Deltoid says:

        “That story doesn’t make sense” – Indeed. What’s more, it’s hard to call Schnittke a persecuted dissident. Like most Soviet artists he had his conflicts with the authorities, and had to deal with heavy-handed censorship, but his work was often heard in public and widely supported. Even the atonal 1st Quartet, slammed as “anti-Soviet,” was recorded by the Borodin Quartet for the official Melodiya label. His work was also widely performed in the satellite countries – I’ve seen photos of him at the Rudolfinum in Prague and the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, on the occasion of performances of his works.

    • Pete says:

      One would have to be mighty skinny to fit in the boot of an old VW Bug (which was in the front)

      even with the spare tire removed.

  • Svetlana says:

    A personal homage to Yuri Nikolaevsky, conductor, colleague and friend of Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) who passed away in November 2003.