Schnittke's Final Symphony, Now Complete, Has US Premiere

Classic Arts News   Schnittke's Final Symphony, Now Complete, Has US Premiere
Alfred Schnittke, the path-breaking Russian composer, was trying desperately to get his Ninth Symphony into final form in his last months of life. Struggling with the debilitating effects of a series of strokes that began in 1985, he completed the piece in short score, but was unable (despite help from colleagues) to get the orchestration finished to his satisfaction before he died in the summer of 1998.

This year Schnittke's final work has finally made it to the concert stage, in a completion by one of his close friends, composer Alexander Raskatov. Famed contemporary music champion Dennis Russell Davies conducted the Dresden Philharmonic in the piece's world premiere on June 16, and he leads the Juilliard Orchestra in its U.S. premiere tonight at Lincoln Center.

Premiering alongside Schnittke's symphony, in both Dresden and New York, is Raskatov's own Nunc dimittis — In memoriam Alfred Schnittke. (Both scores were co-commissioned by the Dresden Philharmonic and Juilliard, along with the Bruckner Orchester Linz in Austria.) The memorial work's text — which is sung by the Hilliard Ensemble and mezzo Alison Tupay — is taken from the traditional Latin liturgical prayer as well as poems by Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky and a Russian Orthodox monk known only as Elder Siluan.

Tonight's concert (which also includes Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante for oboe, bassoon, violin, cello and orchestra) is at 8 p.m. at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. Tickets, available via CenterCharge (1-212-721-6500) and at the Avery Fisher Hall box office, are $20 and $10 (free, at the box office only, for students and seniors).

Russell Davis and the Dresden Philharmonic will record both the Schnittke Symphony and the Raskatov Nunc dimittis in January for the ECM New Series label.

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