Remembering Alfred Schnittke and the Soviet blacklist

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

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  • 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!

    • 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.

      • “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.

    • 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.

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