Alfred Schnittke - The Master and Margarita

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Alfred Garryevich Schnittke (1934-1998) was a Russian composer from the former Volga-German Autonomous Republic. He started studying music in 1946 in Vienna, Austria, where his father worked as a journalist and translator. From 1948 he studied in Moscow, at the Moscow Conservatorium P.I. Tchaikovsky, where he would become a teacher himself. As from the seventies, he devoted himself totally to composing music.

At first his style was avant-garde and strongly influenced by composition techniques coming from the west like serialism and aleatoric music. In the early seventies he developed a new style, which he called himself polystylism.

The life of Schnittke in the Soviet Union was rather tough. Although the Soviet government was less severe against artists in the sixties and seveties than it was under Stalin, it looked at the works of Schnittke in a rather suspicious way, because they were considered «avant-garde» or «western». Therefor his performances were often thwarted, and Schnittke had to write film soundtrachs to earn just enough for subsistence. In 1990, Schnittke settled with his family in Hamburg, where he died on August 3, 1998.

In 1993, the Russian director Yuri Kara had asked Alfred Schnittke to make the soundtrack for his film Мастер и Маргарита [Master i Magarita]. The film was planned to be the most expensive post-Soviet production ever. For various reasons, however, it took 17 years before it was shown in the cinema theatres. The CD with Schnittke's soundtrack was released in 2005 though. However, when the film was released in 2011, it seemed to be greatly reduced in time and in various scenes Schnittke's music was left out or replaced by other, not necessarily more appropriate, music. Like, for example, Woland's ball, for which Yuri Kara used the Bolero composed by Maurice Ravel.

Technical details

Alfred Schnittke - Мастер и Маргарита

Music for the Movies (CD)

Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin directed by Frank Strobel

CPO, 1993


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