Article by Martin Sixsmith published today in The Guardian.
(Tikhon Khrennikov, probably the most unsympathetic character in music history, persecuted Schnittke for years, preventing him from travelling abroad to performances of his own works and effectivley banning his music at home. Of course, he was just following orders. But by the time Schnittke was established as a composer, Stalin had been dead for over a decade.)
The secret rebel
As Shostakovich’s satirical operas and ballets come to London, Martin Sixsmith talks to Stalin’s chief arbiter of musical life and the composer’s widow, who says he was anything but a lackey of the state
The purges of the 1920s and 30s had destroyed the writers: Mandelstam, Babel, Yesenin, Mayakovsky, Tsvetaeva, Gumilyov and many others were dead, executed or by their own hand. Then, in 1948, Stalin turned to the composers. The Great Leader and Teacher had heard an opera that displeased him. His anger spread to all avant-garde music, to all music that didn’t fit his own taste for old-fashioned, accessible melodies, easily understood by the people, upbeat and celebrating the superiority of all things Soviet. Stalin ordered his commissars to impose socialist realism in music, and to weed out those who had other ideas. The Central Committee drew up a decree condemning composers of music that was “inimical to the people” and “formalist”.
They handed the task of wiping out formalism to the head of the soviet composers union, Tikhon Khrennikov. At the first congress of the union of composers from April 19-25 1948, Khrennikov listed those who were in the firing line: the “elitist, anti-socialist” Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Khachaturian, Miaskovsky and others … “In the music of Comrade Shostakovich we find all sorts of things alien to realistic Soviet art, such as tenseness, neuroticism, escapism and repulsive pathology. In the work of Comrade Prokofiev … natural emotion and melody has been replaced by grunting and scraping.”
Khrennikov reported that people “all over the USSR” had “voted unanimously” to condemn the so-called formalists and let it be known that those named in the decree were now officially regarded as little better than traitors: “Enough of these pseudo-philosophic symphonies! Armed with clear party directives, we will stop all manifestations of formalism and decadence.”
For Shostakovich, undoubtedly the main target and whose satirical operas and ballets are being performed by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre at the London Coliseum this month, it was a terrifying moment. The guilty men were forced into a public recantation of their errors and a humiliating exhibition of self-criticism and abasement. Prokofiev suffered a stroke and never recovered; he died five years later, on the same day as Stalin in 1953.
Shostakovich – who had been through the same public flagellation 12 years earlier – knew he must bite his tongue and confess: “I thank you comrade chairman … I thought I had succeeded in developing a personal idiom that adhered to the wise demands of the Soviet people … I now see I was mistaken and have underestimated my need for artistic correction. I acknowledge the rightness of the party’s judgment. I shall work on the musical depiction of the heroic Soviet peoples, from the correct ideological standpoint. Equipped with the guidance of the Central Committee, I shall renew my efforts to create really good songs for collective singing.”
Shostakovich’s recantation is so abject and so exaggerated that it is tempting to conclude he was mocking. In fact, he was left terrified and crushed by the ordeal. In private, though, he was preparing his revenge.
All those attacked by Khrennikov in 1948 knew their careers were stymied, and until Stalin’s death they lived in constant expectation of arrest, imprisonment or even execution. Astoundingly, Khrennikov remained in his post as chief arbiter and inquisitor of Russian musical life until 1991. He is now aged 93 and agreed to talk to me in Moscow last month.
When I suggest he led the regime’s repression of musical life, he becomes angry and yells at me that I am recounting lies and slander; he says the reason the Soviet Union needed to encourage positive socialist realism in music was because “you” (the west) had erected an iron curtain to threaten the USSR; the campaign against Jewish composers was regrettable, he says, “but don’t forget there were many Jews in musical life and they launched unfair attacks on my compositions”.
Khrennikov tells me he was simply told – forced – to read out the speech attacking Shostakovich and Prokofiev in 1948: “What else could I have done? If I’d refused, it could have been curtains … death. They made me do it; and anyway, Shostakovich and Prokofiev were sympathetic to my plight – they knew I had no choice: I did everything I could to help them financially while they were banned and repressed … and they were grateful to me”.
But even now he is proud of the power he wielded under Stalin: “My word was law”, he says. “People knew I was appointed personally by Stalin and they were afraid that … I would go and tell Stalin about them. I was Stalin’s Commissar. When I said No! (he shouts), it meant No.”
Khrennikov tells me with relish of his own meetings with Stalin: he was a connoisseur of art and music; he understood it much better than anyone, so much so that he would hold Politburo meetings in a private box at the Bolshoi: when the most accomplished singers came on stage, Stalin would hold up his hand and order a pause from the mighty affairs of state to hear the voice of genius.
And Khrennikov was brave, he says; he would argue with the Great Leader over the fate of musicians, defending the truly deserving among them and condemning those who fell short. But that is not how it seems to Shostakovich’s widow, Irina. She shows me into the Moscow apartment where they lived together and points to the drawer where her husband consigned the many compositions Khrennikov and his lackeys had banned. She says that Shostakovich’s self-abasement and “recantation” after the attacks from Khrennikov were, of course, feigned: her husband never accepted the criticisms that were levelled at him and never recognised the authority of those who made them.
If you want to know what he really thought, she says, you need to listen to a piece of bitter musical satire he composed after Khrennikov’s lambasting and had to keep hidden for many years while the intimidation continued. The piece – entitled “The Anti-Formalist Gallery” (Antiformalisticheskiy Rayok) – was not performed until long after Shostakovich’s death. In Moscow last month, I attended a rare staging of the work. A bass dressed as Stalin and singing in his distorted, unmistakable, Georgian accent, belted out a deliberately ungainly and hilarious aria with words taken directly from the speeches denouncing ‘formalism’ at the 1948 congress, emphasising the ungrammatical, ignorant style of official party-speak:
“Dear Comrades, while realistic music is written by the People’s composers, formalistic music is written by composers who are against the People. Comrades, one must ask why it is that realistic music is always written by composers of the People? The People’s composers write realistic music simply due to the fact that being by nature realists right to their very core, they simply cannot help writing music that is realistic, while those anti-People composers, being by nature unrepentant formalists, cannot help … cannot help … cannot help writing music that is formalistic …”
“The Poet”, a character dressed to look like the famous actor Smoktunovsky playing Hamlet in Pasternak’s sublime translation, poked his head nervously from the wings and sang, with obvious distaste: “Thank you comrade for that lucid and highly informed oration that did so much to educate us and elucidate such vital questions on the subject of music.”
Anyone who still entertains the misconceived idea that Shostakovich was a cringing lackey of the state and sycophant to Stalin could do worse than listen to his Anti-Formalist Gallery. It is as hard hitting and caustic as Mandelstam’s famous poem mocking Stalin that got him sent to the gulag and an agonised death in Siberia. Shostakovich just had the good sense to keep his bilious mockery “in the drawer”.
Shostakovich suffered as a result of the 1948 decree, but he went on to write the greatest of his mature works in the quarter century that followed, including the last six symphonies, the last 10 quartets and the magnificent preludes and fugues. At worst, one might regret that the official demolition of his Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in 1936 scared him off any further opera writing (interestingly, Gergiev and the Mariinsky are doing Shostakovich’s “toned down” version of the opera, rechristened Katerina Izmaylova, which he wrote to get the work performed during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev years). Later, he told Flora Litvinova, a friend and writer, “without ‘party guidance’ … I would have displayed more brilliance, used more sarcasm; I could have revealed my ideas openly instead of having to resort to camouflage”.
Prokofiev, it is true, was left a broken man, but his relations with the regime were already difficult before 1948, his private life was complex (he had actually left his wife Lina before Stalin sent her to the camps) and who is to apportion blame for that? Who is to decide what caused his early death? Whatever else he did, it is undeniable that Tikhon Khrennikov – possibly under pressure from his conscience and certainly under pressure from Mstislav Rostropovich – sent Prokofiev financial help while he was in official disgrace.
Khrennikov was certainly flattered by the power and influence Stalin conferred on him, and he did his master’s bidding with a vengeance: his ruthless imposition of “socialist realism” dogged Soviet music for decades and tormented the greats like Shostakovich and Prokofiev. But he is right when he says it would have been someone else if he had turned it down. And it is undoubtedly true that composers and musicians avoided the mass arrests and executions that Stalin inflicted on the writers.
M. Tarakanov: ‘Novaya zhizn’ staroy formï’ [New life for an old form], SovM (1968), no.6, pp.54–62
Yu. Butsko: ‘Vstrechi s kamernoy muzïkoy’ [Encounter with chamber music], SovM (1970), no.8, pp.10–12
S. Razoryonov: ‘Ob odnom muzïkal’nom vechere’ [One musical evening], SovM (1972), no.5, pp.30–35
V. Blinova and others: ‘Obsuzhdayem simfoniyu A. Shnitke’ [Discussion of Schnittke’s symphony], SovM (1974), no.10, pp.12–26
A. Pietrow: ‘Happening w Gorkim’, RM, xviii/8 (1974), no.8, pp.12–13
‘Kremer and Goldsmith on Schnittke, and each other’, High Fidelity/Musical America, xxxii/2 (1983), 46–7
V. Kholopova: ‘Zum sinfonischen Denken Alfred Schnittkes: am Beispiel selner I. Sinfonie’, Sowietische Musik: Betrachtungen und Analysen ed. H. Gerlach (Berlin, 1984), 33–42
L. Lesle: ‘Komponieren in Schichten: Begegnung mit Alfred Schnittke’, NZM, Jg.148, nos.7–8 (1987), 29–32
V. Yerofeyev: ‘Alfred Schnittke and His Music’, Soviet Scene, 1987: a Collection of Press Articles and Interviews, ed. V. Mezhenkov (Moscow, 1987), 222–9 [Russ. origo, Sovetskaya kul’tura (5 March 1987)]
D. Dell’ Agli: ‘Experimentum crucis: Begriff und Figur der Polystilistik bei Alfred Schnittke’, Komponistenportrait Alfred Schnittke: 38. Berliner Festwochen 88 (Berlin, 1988), 35–50 [programme book]; repr. in: MusikTexte, no.30 (1989), 31–4
H. Collins Rice: ‘Further Thoughts on Schnittke’, Tempo, no.168 (1989), 12–14
I. Moody: ‘The Music of Alfred Schnittke’, Tempo, no.168 (1989), 4–11
V. Kholopova and E. Chigareva: Alfred Schnittke (Moscow, 1990)
S. Sawenko: ‘Alfred Schnittke: 4. Concerto grosso/5. Sinfonie’, Sowjetischem Musik im Licht der Perestroika, ed. H. Danuser, H. Gerlach and J. Köchel (Laaber, 1990), 131–43
A. Ross: ‘The Connoisseur of Chaos’, New Republic (28 Sept 1992)
R. Taruskin: ‘A Posteverythingist Booms’, New York Times (2 July 1992)
J. Webb: ‘Schnittke in Context’, Tempo, no.182 (1992), 19–24
A. Ivashkin, E. Restagno and E. Wilson: Schnittke (Turin, 1993)
Alfred Schnittke zum 60. Geburtstag: eine Festschrift (Hamburg, 1994)
P. Davis: ‘Uneasy-Listening Music’, New York Magazine (28 Feb 1994)
P. Griffiths: ‘Schnittke’s Seventh’, New Yorker (7 March 1994)
A. Ivashkin: Besedï s Al’fredom Shnitke [Conversations with Schnittke] (Moscow, 1994)
F. Lemaire: La musique du XXe siècle en Russie (Paris, 1994), 467–72
A. Ross: ‘A Shy, Frail Creator of the Wildest Music’, New York Times (10 Feb 1994)
E. Rothstein: ‘A Russian at Play Amid the Wreckage of a Lost Past’, New York Times (8 Feb 1994)
M. Walsh: ‘The Sound of Russian Fury’, Time (28 March 1994)
A. Ivashkin: ‘Shostakovich and Schnittke: the Erosion of Symphonic Syntax’, Shostakovich Studies, ed. D. Fanning (Cambridge, 1995), 254–70
G. McBurney: ‘Schnittke: Life and his “Idiot”’, Opera (1995), 380–85
A. Ivashkin: Alfred Schnittke (London, 1996)
A. Iwaschlzin: ed.: Alfred Schnittke über das Leben und die Musik (Munich, 1998)
A. Ivashkin, ed.: Schnittke Reader (Bloomington, IN, 1999)
‘O tvorchestve G. Grigoryana’ [Grigorian’s works], SovM (1960), no.5, pp.30–35
‘Razvivat’ nauku o garmonii’ [Stimulating the study of harmony], SovM (1961), no.10, 44–5
‘Navstrechu slushatelyu’ [To meet the listener], SovM (1962), no.1, pp.16–20
‘S tribunï teoreticheskoy konferentsii’ [From the platform of the theoretical conference], SovM (1966), no.5, pp.26–7
‘Zametki ob orkestrovoy polifonïy v chetvyortoy simfoniy D.D. Shostakovicha’ [Notes on the orchestral polyphony of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony], Muzïka i sovremennost’, iv (1966), 127–61
‘Nekotortïye osobennosti orkestrovogo golosvedeniya v simfonicheskikh proizvedeniyakh D.D. Shostakovicha’ [Some features of orchestral part-writing in Shostakovich’s symphonic works], Dmitriy Shostakovich, ed. G.Sh. Orjonikidze (Moscow, 1967), 499–532
‘Osobennosti orkestrovogo golosvedeniya rannikh proizvedeniy Stravinskogo’ [Features of orchestral part-writing in the early works of Stravinsky], Muzïka i sovremennost’, v (1967), 209–61
‘Ye. Golubev: pyataya simfoniya’ [Golubev’s Fifth Symphony], SovM (1968), no.7, p.141 only
‘Original’nïy zamïsel’ [An original idea], SovM (1968), no.9, pp.48–9
‘Edison Denisov’, Res Facta, vi (1972), 109–24
‘Paradoksal’nost kak cherta muzïkal’noy logiki Stravinskogo’ [Paradox as a main feature of Stravinsky’s musical logic], I.F. Stravinskiy: stat’i i materialï, ed. B.M. Yarustovsky (Moscow, 1973), 383–434
‘Osobennosti orkestrovogo golosvedeniya S. Prokof’yeva: na materiale yego simfoniy’ [The characteristics of Prokof’yev’s orchestral writing], Muzïka i sovremennost’, viii (1974), 202–28
‘Krugi vliyaniya’ [Circles of influence], D. Shostakovich: stat’i i materialï, ed. G. Shneerson (Moscow, 1976), 223–4
‘Na puti k voploshcheniyu novoy idei’ [Implementing a new idea], Problemï traditsii i novatorstva v sovremennoy muzïke, ed. A.M. Goltsman and M.E. Tarakanova (Moscow, 1982), 104–7
‘Polistilisticheskiye tendentsii sovremennoy muzïki’ [Polystylistic tendencies in modern music], Muzika v SSSR (1988), no.2, pp.22–4; Eng. trans. in Music in the USSR (1988), no.2, pp.22–4; Ger. trans. in MusikTexte, no.30 (1989), 29–30
Gedanken zu Sergej Prokofjew (Hamburg, 1990); repr. in SovM (1990), no.11, pp.1–3 [address for the 1990 Prokof’yev festival, Duisberg]
In Schnittke’s early works, Shostakovich was an obvious model, but many other influences were also absorbed. In the oratorio Nagasaki (1958, written just after he had graduated from the Moscow Conservatory), both the vocabulary and rhetoric of the Russian tradition of the 19th century are still clearly felt, notwithstanding an atonal episode representing the explosion of the atomic bomb. An absorption of new techniques followed intensive research into Western music and this led, after intensive concentration on serial writing (evident in the Violin Sonata no.1, 1963, and Violin Concerto 1966), to such works as the Violin Sonata (‘Quasi una sonata’) and the Serenade, both of 1968, which employ aleatory and extended instrumental techniques with wit and humour, and whose sense of openness to all styles and sound-phenomena presage his later, more consistent use of polystylism. The Concerto for Oboe, Harp and Strings (1971) continues to employ elements of the rather fragmented style of the Serenade, but melds them into a taut dramatic structure which moves towards the stasis of the work’s final section.
Despite the inherent risk in polystylism of appearing, in formal terms, to be mere pastiche unless disparate stylistic elements are adequately incorporated within the music’s aesthetic and physical structure, this approach proved in general to be an efficient generator of that kind of alienation, expressed through irony, which Schnittke inherited from Shostakovich, whose natural successor he has often been considered to be. The Piano Quintet of 1976 (later reworked as the orchestral In memoriam) juxtaposes non-tonal material with nostalgic reminiscences of other types of music (a Viennese waltz, for example) in such a way as to make the feeling of isolation and bereavement almost unbearably acute. In memoriam relies heavily on the emotional, associative power of the strings (in contrast to the fragmented style of the Concerto), a harking back to Tchaikovsky and Mahler which continued in his symphonies.
1977 saw the composition of the Concerto Grosso no.1, in which the wit inherent in the Serenade is developed into a commentary on the idea of the Baroque concerto grosso. The composer noted that he achieved an alienating effect through “formulae and forms of baroque music; free chromaticism and micro-intervals; and banal popular music which enters as it were from the outside with a disruptive effect.” Quotation of material of very diverse origins is an important feature of several of his works; he developed this particularly in the film music which he wrote throughout his life. Many of his concert works utilize material first heard in his film scores (the Concerto Grosso no.1 is no exception, using as it does material from Butterfly, a cartoon score).
Schnittke’s chamber music, as well as being a vehicle for his most intimate thoughts, also served as a kind of laboratory for refining procedures which were then used on a larger scale in other works. The First String Quartet (1966), whose movements have deceptively traditional titles, employs freely imitative polyphonic writing and a free dodecaphonic vocabulary which is contradicted by the pronounced emphasis of C at the beginning and end as well as during the course of the piece: Schnittke’s approach to twelve-note writing was always unorthodox.
The later 1970s saw a gradual abandoning of the rather obvious kind of polystylism of the previous decade, and works such as the First Sonata for cello and piano (1978) and the four Hymns (1974–9) show the creation of a new, homogeneous language with a structural rigour which retains the capacity to allude to other music in more subtle ways than direct quotation. Although the Second String Quartet (1980) is built almost entirely upon medieval Russian sacred music which is quoted relatively clearly in the outer movements, the already idiosyncratic harmonic and melodic character of the quoted material is refracted and distorted in the second and third movements as though it formed a part of Schnittke’s own language. Similarly, the Third String Quartet (1983) takes as its material three quotations: cadential material from Lassus’s Stabat mater, the theme from Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge and Shostakovich’s DSCH motto. The chromatic juxtaposition of the latter two provides a foil for the simplicity of the Lassus fragment with which the work begins; all three themes undergo a gradual transformation and reconciliation in Schnittke’s own musical language. In the String Trio (1985), a homage to Berg, Schnittke refers to the older composer’s style in a general way, rather than using specific quotation, the whole being a complex set of variations or transformations of the opening material. Its polyphonic density is shared by the Fourth String Quartet and the Piano Quartet (both 1989, the latter incorporating material from an unfinished piano quartet by Mahler). Later chamber works, in common with the symphonies, reveal a greater textural transparency. This is apparent, for example, in both the Second Sonata for cello and piano (1993–4) and the Third Sonata for violin and piano (1994).
In his symphonies, Schnittke attempted to take on the Mahlerian symphonic ideal, that of embracing the world. The First (1972), like the Third (1980) builds its universe from a very wide range of material. The First Symphony takes the principles of the contemporary Serenade much further, and in doing so it can be seen as a pivotal point in Schnittke’s output between the relatively conventional serial path he had been following and the unequivocal inception of polystylism. In no other work has the conflict of styles and quotations been so clear and so penetrating. Music by Beethoven, Haydn, Grieg, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Johann Strauss is quoted and brutally interrupted and transmuted, and Jazz is also included in a cadenza for violin and piano. The theatrical element is also important: at the opening there are only three players on stage, the other players then enter gradually and improvise in a chaotic fashion until the conductor signals them to stop. At the end, the musicians leave the stage, as in Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony, leaving only a solo violin, but then return and begin the work again. They are interrupted by the conductor, who brings the music to an unexpected close.
Though less theatrical, the Third Symphony works with quoted material and stylistic reference in exactly the same way, but the Second (1979) and the Fourth (1983), though referential to other styles, make different use of them. The former, entitled ‘St Florian’ and an homage to Bruckner, comprises six movements which follow the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass; a chorus and soloists provide the liturgical material upon which the orchestra meditates. In the Fourth, Schnittke said that he strove ‘to find the general in the dissimilar’, and attempts to reconcile elements of znamennïy and Gregorian chant, the Lutheran chorale and Synagogue cantillation which are intoned by four vocal soloists within a dense, polyphonic orchestral texture. In this work Schnittke succeeds in absorbing his quoted material into the foundations of his own language in an unprecedented way. The culmination of this is found in the Fifth Symphony (1988), which because it is simultaneously the Fourth Concerto grosso, Schnittke could be said to be quoting a quotation. With the sixth, seventh and eighth symphonies (1992, 1993 and 1993–4 respectively) Schnittke entered into a new, sparer sound world, texturally reminiscent of later Shostakovich and late Nono. The Sixth, containing almost no writing for the full orchestra, makes conscious reference both to Bruckner in its trombone chorales and to Schnittke’s opera Historia von D. Johann Fausten (1983–94), and the Seventh, while also summoning Bruckner and Mahler, has its point of origin in a solo violin passage recalling Bach and, at times, the Berg of the Violin Concerto. With the Eighth and Ninth Schnittke brought this late, spare style to a new maturity and refinement.
The shadow of Berg may also be detected in Schnittke’s own series of violin concertos. The Third (1978) presents an amalgam of violin styles (though often implicity rather than explicitly), and the Fourth (1982) is not only more eclectic but theatrical: towards the end, the orchestra becomes so loud that the soloist cannot be heard, and is left miming the gestures of the virtuoso on stage. With the Konzert zu Dritt of 1994, Schnittke attained the concentrated, lyrical expressionism which would characterize his work thenceforth – confirmed particularly by the Viola Concerto (1985), the ballet Peer Gynt (1986), the Fifth Symphony (1988) and the two cello concertos (1986 and 1990) – until the simplification which occurred with such works as the Sixth Symphony and the opera Zhizn’s idiotom (‘Life with an Idiot’) of the early 1990s.
In his choral music, an obvious vehicle for the expression of religious belief (he was baptized a Roman Catholic in 1982), Schnittke showed himself increasingly a true inheritor of the Russian tradition: whereas in the 1975 Requiem the stylistic links are with Catholic liturgical music, in the Concerto for Mixed Chorus (1984–5) and the Stikhi pokayannïye (1987), stylistic echoes of and technical procedures derived from the ‘choral orchestration’ of Rachmaninoff abound. It was in his operas that Schnittke dealt with wider philosophical issues, employing a generally angular vocal style but also integrating stylistic reference and allusion in a manner that confirms the theatrical aspirations of his concert works. Life with an Idiot (1991) is a black comedy which while being superficially concerned with the collapse of communism in fact deals with the human condition on a broader scale, something Schnittke underlines by resorting to direct quotation from a great deal of music, including Russian folk songs, within textures of a singular spareness. The Historia von D. Johann Fausten (1983–94), which includes the earlier cantata Seid nüchtern und wachet (1983), may be seen as an operatic passion (a ‘negative passion’ in Schnittke’s words, dealing with the fundamental problem of good and evil), a connection which the composer reinforces with his use of chorales and a pseudo-evangelist, achieving a continuity and a greater stylistic homogeneity absent in Life with an Idiot. Gesualdo (1994) continues these preoccupations and is specifically concerned with the perceived divide between artistic genius and the ability of its possessor to perpetrate the sin of murder; the lean instrumentation of the score results in a textual transparency which goes beyond even Schnittke’s other works from his last years.
If the criticism might be made that Schnittke’s expressionistic all-inclusiveness could lead to the near-suppression of purely musical argument, this was perhaps inevitable in a composer who was concerned in his music to depict the moral and spiritual struggles of contemporary man in such depth and detail.
Labyrinths (ballet, 5 episodes, V. Vasilyev), 1971, Moscow, spr. 1972 [1st episode], Leningrad, 7 June 1978 [complete]
Der gelbe Klang [Yellow Sound] (pantomime, V. Kandinsky), S, chorus, inst ens, 1974, Saint Bomme, sum. 1974
Historia von D. Johann Fausten (op, introduction, 3, epilogue, J. Morgener and Schnittke, after J. Spies: Volksbuch), 1983–94 [incl. cant. Seid nüchtern und wachet … ], Hamburg, 22 June 1995
Sketches (ballet, 1, A. Petrov, after N. Gogol), 1985, Moscow, 16 Jan 1985 [orchd G. Rozhdestvensky]
Peer Gynt (ballet, 3, J. Neumeier, after H. Ibsen), 1986, Hamburg, 22 Jan 1989
Zhizn’ s idiotom [Life with an Idiot] (op, 3, V. Yerofeyev), 1991, Amsterdam, 13 April 1992
Gesualdo (op, prol, 7 scenes, epilogue, R. Bletschacher), 1994, Vienna, 26 May 1995
Incid music: Charleston, light music ens, 1965, orchd P. Dementyev [from film score Adventures of a Dentist]; 2 Fragments, small orch, 1976 [from film score How Tsar Peter Got the Black Man Married]; Polyphonic Tango, 15 insts, 1979; Music to an Imagined Play, insts, 1985
66 film scores; 12 stage productions
9 syms.: no.1, 1972; no.2 ‘St Florian’, solo vv, chbr chorus, orch, 1979; no.3, 1980; no.4, solo vv, chorus, chbr orch, 1983; Conc. grosso no.4 (Sym. no.5), vn, ob, orch, 1988; no.6, 1992; no.7, 1993; no.8, 1993–4; no.9, 1995–7
Concs.: Vn Conc. no.1, 1957, rev. 1962; Pf Conc., 1960; Vn Conc. no.2, 1966; Conc., ob, hp, str, 1971; Conc. grosso no.1, 2 vn, hpd, prep pf, str, 1977; Vn Conc. no.3, 1978; Pf Conc., 1979; Conc. grosso no.2, vn, vc, orch, 1981–2; Vn Conc. no.4, 1982; Conc. grosso no.3, 2 vn, hpd, 14 str, 1985; Va Conc., 1985; Vc Conc. no.1, 1986; Pf Conc., 4 hands, 1987–8; Vc Conc. no.2, 1990; Conc. grosso no.5, vn, orch, off-stage pf, 1991; Conc. grosso no.6, vn, pf, str orch, 1993; Myortvïye dushi [Dead Souls], 1993 [suite from film, compiled by G. Rozhdestvensky]; Konzert zu 3, vn, va, vc, pf, str orch, 1994; [Conc.], va, orch, 1995–8
Other: Music for Pf and Chbr Orch, 1964; Variations on the Theme from the 16th Sym. by Myaskovsky, 1966 [contrib. to collab. work]; Pianissimo … , 1968; Sonata, vn, chbr orch, 1968 [from Sonata no.1, vn, pf, 1963]; In Memoriam, 1978 [from Pf Qnt, 1976]; Gogol-Suite, 1981; Passacaglia, 1981; Ritual, 1984–5; (K)ein Sommernachstraum, 1985; Epilogue from ‘Peer Gynt’, 1987; Quasi una sonata, vn, chbr orch, 1987 [from Sonata no.2, vn, pf, 1968]; Trio-Sonata, chbr orch, 1987 [from Str Trio, 1985]; Monologue, va, str, 1989; Sutartines, org, str, perc, 1991; Hommage à Grieg, 1992; For Liverpool, 1994; Sinfonischer Vorspiel, 1994
Choral: Requiem, solo vv, chorus, inst ens, 1975; Der Sonnengesang des Franz von Assisi (St Francis of Assisi), 2 choruses, 6 insts, 1976; Minnesang (12th and 13th century Minnesinger texts), 52 vv, 1980–81; Seid nüchtern und wachet … (cant., J. Spies: Volksbuch), solo vv, chorus, orch, 1983; 3 Choruses (Orthodox Church prayer bk), 1984; Conc. (G. Narekatsi), 1984–5; Stikhi pokayannïye [Penitential Psalms], 1987; Eröffnungvers zum 1 Festspielsonntag, chorus, org, 1989; Agnus Dei, 2 S, female chorus, orch, 1991; Torzhestvennïy kant [Solemn Canto], chorus, vn, pf, orch, 1991; Lux aeterna (Communio II), chorus, orch, 1994 [movt 12 of Requiem der Versöhnung, collab. Berio, Cerha, Dittrich and others, unfinished [completed and orchd G. Rozhdestvensky; contrib. to collab. work: Requiem der Versöhnung]
Other: 3 Poems (M. Tsvetayeva), Mez, pf, 1965; Voices of Nature, no text, 10 female vv, vib, 1972; 8 Songs, Bar, pf, 1975 [from incid music Don Carlos, by F. Schiller]; Magdalina (B. Pasternak: Doctor Zhivago), 1v, pf, 1977; 3 Madrigals (F. Tanzer), S, vn, va, db, vib, hpd, 1980; 3 Scenes, no text, S, ens, 1980; 3 Gedichte (V. Schnittke), Bar, pf, 1988; Mutter (E. Lasker-Schüler), Mez, pf, 1993; 5 Fragmente zu Bildern von Hieronymus Bosch (Aeschylus and N. Reusner), T, trbn, vn, hpd, timp, str orch, 1994
Chamber and solo instrumental
3 or more insts: Dialogue, solo vc, fl, ob, cl, hn, tpt, perc, pf, 1965; Str Qt no.1, 1966; Serenade, cl, vn, db, perc, pf, 1968; Canon in Memoriam Igor Stravinsky, str qt, 1971; Pf Qnt, 1976 [orchd as In Memoriam, 1978]; Cantus perpetuus, hpd, perc, 1975; Moz-Art, fl, cl, 3 vn, va, vc, db, perc, org, 1975 [from sketches by Mozart, k416d]; Prelude in Memoriam Dmitry Shostakovich, 1/2 vn, tape, 1975; Moz-Art à la Haydn, 2 vn, chbr orch, 1977 [after sketches by Mozart, k416d]; Hymns I–IV, solo vc, bn, db, perc, hp, hpd, 1974–9; Moz-Art, ob, vn, vc, db, hpd, hp, 1980; Str Qt no.2, 1980; Septet, fl, 2 cl, vn, va, vc, hpd/org, 1981–2; Lebenslauf, 4 metronomes, perc, pf, 1982; Str Qt no.3, 1983; Str Trio, 1985, orchd as Trio-Sonata, 1987, arr. pf trio, 1992; 4 Aphorisms, chbr orch, 1988; Pf Qt, 1989 [after sketches by Mahler]; Str Qt no.4, 1989; 3 x 7, cl, hn, trbn, vn, vc, db, hpd, 1989; Moz-Art à la Mozart, 8 fl, hp, 1990 [after sketches by Mozart, k416d]; Epilogue, vc, pf, tape, 1992 [from the ballet Peer Gynt]; Qt, perc, 1993; Minuet, vn, va, vc, 1994; [Variations], str qt, 1995–8
1–2 insts: Sonata no.1, vn, pf, 1963, orchd 1968; Sonata no.2, vn, pf, 1968, orchd as Quasi una sonata, 1987; Suite in Old Style, vn, pf, 1972, arr. va d’amore, chbr ens, 1986; Greeting Rondo, vn, pf, 1973; Moz-Art, 2 vn, 1975–6 [arr. of Minuet from Suite in Old Style]; Moz-Art, 2 vn, 1976 [after sketches by Mozart, k416d]; Sonata no.1, vc, pf, 1978; Stille Nacht, vn, pf, 1978 [arr. of German Christmas carol]; Stille Musik, vn, vc, 1979; 2 Short Pieces, org, 1980; A Paganini, vn, 1982; Schall und Hall, trbn, pf, 1983; Klingende Buchstaben, vc, 1988; Madrigal in Memoriam Oleg Kagan, vn/vc, 1991; To the 90th Birthday of Alfred Schlee, va, 1991; Polka, vn, pf, 1993 [arr. from the ballet Sketches]; Improvisation, vc, 1993–4; Sonata no.2, vc, pf, 1993–4; Sonata no.3, vn, pf, 1994
Pf: 6 Children’s Pieces, 1962–3; Prelude and Fugue, 1963; Improvisation and Fugue, 1965; Variations of the Chord, 1965; 6 Pieces, 1971; Dedication to Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokof’yev and Dmitry Shostakovich, pf 6 hands, 1979; Sonata no.1, 1987; 5 Aphorisms, 1990; 3 Fragments for Hpd, 1990; Sonata no.2, 1990–91; Sonata no.3, 1992; Sonatina, pf 4 hands, 1994
Cadenzas: W.A. Mozart: Pf Conc., k491, 1975; L. van Beethoven: Vn Conc., solo vn, 10 vn, timp, 1975–7; Mozart: Pf Conc., k467, 1980 [3 cadenzas]; Mozart: Bn Conc., k191, 1983 [2 cadenzas]; Mozart: Pf Conc., k503, 1983; Mozart: Pf Conc., k39, 1990 [2 cadenzas]
Tape: Potok [The Stream], 1969
Accdn Conc., 1948–9, lost; Fugue, vn, 1953; Poem, pf, orch, 1953, pf score only; Redeyet oblakov letuchaya gryada [The Passing Line Of Clouds Grows Thinner] (A. Pushkin), 1v, pf, 1953; 6 Preludes, pf, 1953–4; Beryozka [Birch-Tree] (S. Shchipachev), 1v, pf, 1954–5; 3 Choruses (A. Prokof’yev, M. Isakovsky, A. Mashistov), chorus, 1954–5; Intermezzo, 2 vn, va, vc, pf, 1954–5; Ov., orch, 1954–5; Scherzo, 2 vn, va, vc, pf, 1954–5, orchd; Sonata, vn, pf, 1954–5; 2 Songs, 1v, pf, 1954–5: Sumrak [Dusk] (F. Tyutchev), Nishchiy [Beggar] (M. Lermontov); Suite, str orch, 1954–5, arr. chbr orch; Variations, pf, 1954–5; Sym. no.0, 1956–7; Nagasaki (orat, A. Sofronov and others), Mez, chorus, orch, 1958; Songs of War and Peace (cant.), S, chorus, orch, 1959; Str Qt, 1959, unfinished; Elec Insts Conc., 1960, unfinished; The 11th Commandment (op, M. Churova, G. Ansimov, Schnittke), 1962, pf score only; Suite for Children, small orch, 1962; Music for Chbr Orch, 1964
D. Shostakovich: 2 Pf Preludes, small orch, 1976; A. Jensen: Serenade for V and Pf, 1v, orch, 1984; S. Joplin: Ragtime for Pf, orch, 1984; F. Nietzsche: Beschworung for V and Pf, 1v, orch, 1984; A. Berg: Canon ‘An das Frankfurter Opernhaus’, 9 str, 1985, arr. solo vn, str, 1985
Principal publishers: Sikorski, Universal, Peters, Sovetskïy Kompozitor, Muzïka
As a historical period, postmodernism can denote that which postdates the period 1450–1950, reflecting a crisis of cultural authority and world view, especially that vested in Western culture and its institutions (Jameson, 1991). A growing ecological sensitivity encouraged a broad critique of modernity and modernization (Huyssen, 1986). In music, Cage appears postmodernist because he threw into question both the concept of artistic genius that developed during the Renaissance (Hamm, 1997) and the notion of music as organized sound. Postmodernism can also signal a change from developments that began around the beginning of the 20th century. Some see this as a shift from imperialist centralization, nation states and utopian philosophies to a decentralized world economy, supranational entities and relativism. What is postmodernist in this sense depends on one’s definition of Modernism.
The concept may also refer to a socio-economic condition, a reaction to the ‘modern condition’ that began with the Enlightment (Habermas, 1981). Some have used it to describe the penetration of capitalism and mass media into all aspects of life, undermining faith in various religious and historical metanarratives. Others understand the postmodern condition as ‘marked by a plurality of voices vying for the right to reality – to be accepted as legimitate expressions of the true and the good’ (Gergen, 1991), or as a ‘time when no orthodoxy can be adopted without selfconsciousness and irony because all traditions seem to have some validity’ (Jencks, 1986). Similarly, in philosophy and the arts, it is often used to denote a way of thinking or operating (Eco, 1984) that sees the world as the product of multiple perspectives all of which have some truth. This has led to a breakdown in boundaries between élite and popular culture and to receptivity to those on the margins of power.
Postmodernism is also used to describe a style that throws into question certain assumptions about Modernism, its social basis and its objectives. These include faith in progress, absolute truth, emphasis on form and genre and the renunciation of or alienation from an explicit social function for art. Many use the term to describe a style that posits discontinuity over continuity, difference over similarity and indeterminacy over rational logic (Harvey, 1989). From this perspective, some aspects of postmodernism have Modernist antecedents (Dada, the futurists) or long traditions in music (collage, juxtaposition, appropriation, quotation). Questioning the modern aesthetics of the sublime which ‘allows the unpresentable to be put forward only as the missing contents’ and leaves the ‘recognizable consistency’ of the form to ensure ‘solace and pleasure’ for the reader or viewer, Lyotard (1979) idealizes a postmodernism that ‘puts forward the unpresentable in the presentation itself’. Those who see it as an attitude that disdains analytic or perceptual unity and embraces other forms of order (J. Kramer, 1995) argue that postmodernism is an attitude recurring throughout history. From this perspective, the modern/postmodern dialectic is an alternating aesthetic cycle, like classic/romantic. Those who support this conclusion point in music to Alkan as a precursor because he wrote in an old style without seeking novelty, Reger for his ‘double coding’ and restorationist tendencies (La Motte-Haber, 1995), or Ives and Mahler because of apparent disorder in their music (J. Kramer, 1995).
Certain trends have determined the change from a Modernist to a postmodernist sensibility in music. First is the reaction to the internationalism of Modernism, to the centrality of Europe in that tradition and to abstraction as a universal language, particularly that which developed in Darmstadt after World War II. The Modernist drive for progress produced not only anxiety over influence but also exclusivity, an art increasingly limited to those who had the resources to support experimentation and technological innovation. In music, the institutional power of those composing in modernist styles fuelled this reaction; so did the ambitions of those using computers to increase their control over musical materials.
Cultural politics and critical theory of the last quarter of the 20th century focussed on the role that differences have played in society and culture, specifically those of race, class and gender. With the growing complexity of global interconnectedness and an increasing awareness of the need to respect rather than attempt to dominate non-Western cultures, attention turned to individuals and groups ‘whose histories have prepared them to make productive use of contradictions, to embrace the dynamism of difference and diversity’ (Lipsitz, 1994). The music of post-colonialist and other subaltern voices throughout the world and of immigrants struggling against power, poverty and discrimination within Europe and North America became recognized as a major form of subcultural as well as national expression (Slobin, 1993). In place of universalizing metanarratives, this music often addresses issues of personal or local relevance. Whereas some traditions communicate a sense of place, others express dislocation and privilege movement over stasis.
Since the 1960s and especially with the perceived end of the avant garde by the 1980s, some composers working within Western art traditions also re-evaluated music’s expressive potential. Rejecting the need for constant change and originality and the increasingly difficult and often intellectual approach to music espoused by Modernists, they returned to more traditionally accessible notions of music. Some sought to renew a connection to the past by re-embracing harmonic and temporal strategies characteristic of 18th- and 19th-century composition. Sometimes, as with George Rochberg, traditional forms and syntax serve as a foil to Modernist ideas within one work; other times, as in the music of David Del Tredici and Ellen Zwilich, they signal a wholehearted return to tonality and conventional narrative. With William Bolcom among others, they enable integration of popular idioms. Such concerns forced reconsideration of the concept of consonance (H. Halbreich in Kolleritsch, 1993) and new concepts of tonality, as in the music of L. Ferrero (T. Hirsbrunner in Gruhn, 1989): this trend has been called a ‘postmodernism of reaction’ (Foster, 1987). In Britain and the USA, it was associated with 1980s neo-conservatism. Music critics, especially in Germany, called it neo-romanticism, especially in works that appeal to the emotions such as those of Wolfgang Rihm. In Arvo Pärt’s music, it mirrors a return to spirituality and mysticism in the contemporary world.
Works embodying a second approach, ‘postmodernism of resistance’ (Foster, Huyssen, 1986) or radical postmodernism (Kramer), question rather than exploit cultural codes and explore rather than conceal any associated social or political affiliations. This music often addresses the ‘master narratives’ of tonality, narrative structure, Western hegemony and male dominance. In his music, John Adams makes puns or ironic commentary on these narratives while others deconstruct their inherently contradictory meanings. Composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Michael Nyman and Louis Andriessen, for example, use continuous repetition to create non-narrative works that subvert the role of longterm memory in the perception of a work’s structure. Huyssen points out that resistance of this sort ‘will always have to be specific and contingent upon the cultural field within which it operates’; he argues that its point ‘is not to eliminate the productive tension between the political and the aesthetic, between history and the text, between engagement and the mission of art. It is to heighten that tension’.
A third postmodernism, one of connection or interpenetration, results when a work’s juxtapositions involve an eclectic inclusion of material from disparate discourses, sometimes elements that are not musical per se (Pasler, 1993). Whereas quotation in a Modernist sense often implies a desire to overcome and surpass one’s predecessors, sometimes by distorting or satirizing the borrowed element, postmodernist appropriation functions without any desire to assert the dominance of one element over another. Works such as Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia (1968) and Alfred Schnittke’s Third String Quartet (1983) quote predecessors’ and contemporaries’ music to comment on the history of musical traditions. They construct a sense of time as embodying many times, a self made of many memories. Stylistically what is important, from a postmodernist perspective, is not what is preserved from the past but the radical nature of what is included. And whether colliding new with old, original with borrowed, serious with popular, aesthetic with non-aesthetic, politically central with marginal, the ethics of postmodernism implies an acceptance of difference and sometimes a playfulness. Such works express a ‘longing for a both/and situation rather than one of either/or’ (Perloff, 1989).
The purpose of such collages can vary. In his Musicircus (1967), Cage shifted to the listener the burden of making sense of what he called the ‘play of intelligent anarchy’. Similarly, in some of John Zorn’s recordings, the effect of juxtaposing jazz, swing, pop, reggae, film and TV soundtracks and a recurrent Japanese voice is anarchic coexistence. This music’s noisiness is meant to challenge traditional expectations of music and transform the listening experience (McNeilly, 1995). In the work of Laurie Anderson and other female performance artists of the 1970s, these juxtapositions come from the use of autobiography, story-telling, self-referentiality and a collage of myriad personal tastes; these help return the composer’s ‘shadow’ to the music. In their pop-inflected music of the 1990s, Lang, Wolf, Torke and Daugherty incorporate commercial popular music not only to express their generational interests but also to challenge the troubling contradictions in American culture. In the popular music of migrants worldwide, music both expresses their exile identity and connects them to the real and imagined traditions of their homeland. This has resulted in works meant to help listeners reconcile profoundly different experiences. Postmodernism can thus be seen as ‘an aesthetic vehicle for this struggle’ (Manuel, 1995).