Alfred Schnittke

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Alfred Schnittke (1989)
Alfred Schnittke, portrait by Reginald Gray from 1972

Alfred Schnittke ( Russian Альфред Гарриевич Шнитке, scientific. Transliteration Al'fred Garri'evič Šnitke, German transcription Alfred Garrijewitsch Schnitke * 24. November 1934 in Engels , Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the Volga Germans , Soviet Union †;  3. August 1998 in Hamburg ) was a Russian - German composer and pianist .


Alfred Schnittke's house in Hamburg from 1992 until his death in 1998
Memorial plaque for Alfred Schnittke
Music Mile Vienna
Relief stone in front of the grave

Schnittke was the son of the Jewish journalist Harry Schnittke from Frankfurt am Main and the Volga German teacher Marie Vogel. He was the brother of the writer Viktor Schnittke . In 1946 Alfred Schnittke began his musical training with private lessons with the Austrian piano teacher Charlotte Ruber in Vienna , where his father worked as a war correspondent for the Austrian newspaper until he was demobilized from the Red Army in 1948 . The family returned to Moscow , where Alfred Schnittke attended the music school "October Revolution" (Moskowskoje musykalnoje utschilishche imeni Oktjabrskoi rewoljuzii) from 1949 to 1953 and continued his education from 1953 to 1958 at the Moscow Conservatory with Yevgeny Golubew and Nikolai Rakow . From 1961 to 1972 he taught at the conservatory. From 1973 he devoted himself only to composition. After initial attempts with compositional techniques such as aleatoric and serialism , Schnittke turned to a polystylistic way of composing that invokes Charles Ives , Luciano Berio and Bernd Alois Zimmermann . His works received first attention in the West at the Days for New Music in Donaueschingen in 1966. In 1985 he suffered a stroke , as a result of which he was clinically dead for a short time ; he "released tremendous creative powers in him - a good half of his most important works were created in the 13 remaining years, in which three more strokes in 1991 and 1994 kept him from working". Even after his fourth stroke, he was still able to write a 9th symphony before he died in 1998 at the age of 63.

In 1990, after having lived and worked in the Soviet Union for over 40 years, Schnittke moved with his family to Hamburg , where he took on a professorship for composition at the conservatory . From 1992 until his death he lived in Hamburg-Eppendorf , Beim Andreasbrunnen 5, where a memorial plaque is now attached.

Schnittke converted to Christianity and his mystical beliefs influenced his music.

Alfred Schnittke was buried in Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery.


In 1986, Schnittke received the State Prize of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic , known as the Krupskaya Prize. In 1989 he was honored with the Nika Film Prize and in 1992 he was awarded the Praemium Imperiale and the Bach Prize of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg .

In 1995, Schnittke was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation . In the same year he received the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art and was elected as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters .

The asteroid (30836) Schnittke was named after him in 2002.

First works

In search of his compositional identity, Schnittke initially wrote a lot of scenic music and film music. The second violin sonata from 1968 marks the beginning of this new style of composition, but at the same time, Schnittke also embarked on a compositional journey through sounds and concepts that emerged with each work. He immediately titled his 1st Symphony (1972–74) as “Un-Symphony”; it is a fully composed question mark of gigantic proportions and deals with the search for a contemporary symphonic form of the 20th century. Gestural and theatrical elements, another important characteristic of Schnittke's music, are included here as well as traditional forms and styles, even jazz is staged as a "possibility", it is a symphonic apocalypse. John Neumeier used this music for his ballet end stop Longing for Tennessee Williams .

Film music

Alfred Schnittke composed around 70 film scores. Since about 2001 this has been noticed by an increasingly larger audience, which is to a considerable extent due to the conductor of the Rundfunk-Sinfonie Orchester Berlin, Frank Strobel . Since then, Strobel has recorded the score for, among others, Agonia , Die Kommissarin , Clowns und Kinder , Der Meister und Margarita , Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and Sport, Sport, Sport . This was entirely in the spirit of Alfred Schnittke, who saw his film scores as being on par with the “serious” compositions. In 2005 and 2006 this was honored with the “ German Record Critics ' Award”.




  • Labyrinths (1971)
  • Peer Gynt (1986-88)

Film music (selection)

Choral music

  • Nagasaki Oratory (1958)
  • Cantata Songs of War and Peace (1959)
  • Requiem (incidental music for Schiller's drama Don Karlos ) (1974/75)
  • Faust cantata Be sober and awake (1982/83)
  • Three sacred chants (1984)
  • Concert for choir (1984/1985), large mixed choir, text: Gregor von Narek's prayer book , four movements
  • 12 penitential psalms (1988)

Symphonic music

  • Symphony (No. 0, 1956–57)
  • Pianissimo for large orchestra (1968)
  • 1st Symphony (1972–74), four movements
  • In Memoriam (1977-78), orchestral version of the string quintet (1972-76)
  • 2nd Symphony (1979/80), “St. Florian “, six sentences
  • Passacaglia for orchestra (1979-80)
  • Gogol Suite (1980)
  • 3rd Symphony (1981), four movements
  • 4th Symphony (1984), for countertenor, tenor, chamber choir and chamber orchestra (text: Ave Maria), one movement
  • Ritual for orchestra (1984–85)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream for Orchestra (1985)
  • Trio sonata for strings (1987), orchestral version of the string trio (1985), arranged by Juri Bashmet
  • Old Style Suite for Chamber Orchestra (1987)
  • Four aphorisms for orchestra (1988)
  • 5th Symphony (1988) = 4th Concerto Grosso, four movements
  • Sutartines for percussion, organ and strings (1991)
  • 6th Symphony (1992), four movements
  • Homage to Grieg (1993)
  • 7th Symphony (1993), three movements
  • Symphonic Prelude for Orchestra (1994)
  • 8th Symphony (1994), five movements
  • For Liverpool for orchestra (1994)
  • 9th Symphony (1996–97), three movements, reconstruction by Alexander Raskatow , premiered June 16, 2007 in Dresden

Concert music

  • Violin concerts
  • Concerto No. 1 for violin and orchestra (1957/63)
  • Concerto No. 2 for violin and chamber orchestra (1966)
  • Concerto No. 3 for violin and chamber orchestra (1978)
  • Concerto No. 4 for violin and orchestra (1984)
  • Viola concerts
  • Concerto for viola and orchestra (1985), for Juri Abramowitsch Bashmet
  • Concerto for viola and orchestra (No. 2; 1998, manuscript found after the composer's death)
  • Cello concerts
  • Concerto No. 1 for violoncello and orchestra (1985/86)
  • Concerto No. 2 for violoncello and orchestra (1990)
  • Double Concerto for oboe, harp and strings (1971)
  • Concert for three: for violin, viola, cello and string orchestra (1994)
  • Concerti grossi
  • Concerto grosso No. 1 for two violins, harpsichord, prepared piano and strings (1977) (another version in which the two solo violins are replaced by flute and oboe by the composer (1988))
  • Concerto grosso No. 2 for violin, cello and orchestra (1981–82)
  • Concerto grosso No. 3 for two violins and chamber orchestra (1985)
  • Concerto grosso No. 4. (= 5th symphony) (1988)
  • Concerto grosso No. 5 for violin and orchestra (1991)
  • Concerto grosso No. 6 for piano, violin and strings (1993)
  • Poème for piano and orchestra (1953, lost)
  • Concerto for piano and orchestra (1960)
  • Music for piano and chamber orchestra (1964)
  • Concerto for piano and strings (1979)
  • Concerto for piano four hands and chamber orchestra (1988)
  • Concert for electric instruments (1960)

Chamber music

  • 3 piano sonatas
  • 3 violin sonatas
  • 3 violoncello sonatas
  • A Paganini for solo violin (1983)
  • String Trio (1985)
  • Piano Trio (1992, arrangement of the string trio)
  • Piano quintet
  • Old Style Suite (1972)
  • 4 string quartets
  • “Schall und Hall” for trombone and organ

Student (selection)


  • Amrei Flechsig and Stefan Weiss (eds.): Postmodernism behind the Iron Curtain. Work and reception of Alfred Schnittke in the context of Eastern and Central European music discourses , Hildesheim: Olms 2013 (Ligatures. Musicological Yearbook of HMTH 6), ISBN 978-3-487-15015-4 .
  • Arkadi Junold: Faust in the Opera. Arkadien-Verlag, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-940863-00-3 .
  • Christian Storch: The composer as an author. Alfred Schnittke's piano concertos. (= Series of publications by the Liszt School of Music Weimar 8). Böhlau, Cologne / Vienna / Weimar 2011, ISBN 978-3-412-20762-5 .
  • Amrei Flechsig, Christian Storch (Ed.): Alfred Schnittke: Analysis, Interpretation, Reception. (= Schnittke studies 1). Olms, Hildesheim / Zurich / New York 2010, ISBN 978-3-487-14464-1 .
  • Amrei Flechsig: Requiem on the Soviet Union: Alfred Schnittke's life with an idiot. In: Eastern Europe. 59 (2009), No. 4, ISSN  0030-6428 , pp. 109-118.
  • Melanie Turgeon: Composing the sacred in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia. History and Christianity in Alfred Schnittke's. Concerto for Choir. VDM, Saarbrücken 2009, ISBN 978-3-639-03333-5 .
  • Peter J. Schmelz: Such freedom, if only musical. The beginning of unofficial Soviet music during the thaw. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2009, ISBN 978-0-19-534193-5 .
  • Christian Storch: Dance to the late mother? - The BACH waltz in Alfred Schnittke's piano quintet. In: L'art macabre. (= Yearbook of the European Dance of Death Association 9). ed. Uli Wunderlich, Düsseldorf 2008, pp. 201–212.
  • Victoria Adamenko: Neo-Mythologism in Music: From Scriabin and Schoenberg to Schnittke and Crumb. (= Interplay 5). Pendragon Press, Hilldale 2007, ISBN 978-1-57647-125-8 .
  • Maria Kostakeva: In the stream of times and worlds. The late work of Alfred Schnittke. Pfau, Saarbrücken 2005, ISBN 3-89727-279-2 .
  • Jürgen Köchel:  Schnittke, Alfred. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 23, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-428-11204-3 , pp. 328-330 ( digitized version ).
  • Alla Bogdanova, Elene Dolinskaya: Al'fredu Schnittke posvjashchajetsja. (= Dedicated to Alfred Schnittke). 3 vols., Moscow 2003-2006. (Russian)
  • Paolo Cecchinelli: Alfred Schnittke. A Paganini. In: Quaderni dell'Istituto di Studi Paganiniani. 14, (2002), pp. 58-71.
  • Alexander Ivashkin: A Schnittke Reader. Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN et al. a. 2002, ISBN 0-253-33818-2 .
  • Alla Bogdanova (ed.): Al'fredu Schnittke posvjaschtschajetsja. (= Dedicated to Alfred Schnittke) 2 volumes. Moscow 1999 and 2001. (Russian)
  • Alfred Schnittke: About life and music. Conversations with Alexander Ivashkin. Econ, Munich / Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-430-18033-3 .
  • Alexander Ivashkin: Alfred Schnittke. Phaidon, London 1996. (English)
  • Jürgen Köchel (Ed.): Alfred Schnittke for his 60th birthday. A commemorative publication. Sikorski, Hamburg 1994, ISBN 3-920880-53-6 .
  • Boris Belge: An "insane chronicle of the 20th century". Alfred Schnittke's 1st Symphony as a key work in Soviet music history . In: Zeithistorische Forschungen / Studies in Contemporary History , 12, 2015, pp. 170–175.
  • Boris Belge: Sounding Soviet Modernism. A musical and social history of socialism . Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2018, ISBN 978-3-412-51066-4 .
  • About Schnittke performances by the Dresden Kreuzchor, in: Matthias Herrmann (Ed.): Dresdner Kreuzchor and contemporary choral music. World premieres between Richter and Kreile , Marburg 2017, pp. 124–126, 129, 281–282, 321 (Schriften des Dresdner Kreuzchor, vol. 2)


  • The symphonies 0–9 and other compositions have been published by the Swedish label BIS, the 9th symphony also by ECM. Some of the film scores were recorded by Frank Strobel and have been released by CPO and Capriccio. Many of the symphonies and concerts were recorded by the Russian conductors Gennady Roschdestwensky and Valeri Polianski and are among others. a. published by Chandos. In February 2015 Pentatone released Symphony No. 3 with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB) under Vladimir Jurowski as SACD.
  • Twelve verses of penance. Three spiritual chants . RIAS Chamber Choir , Hans-Christoph Rademann , Harmonia Mundi HMC902225, 2016.
  • A selection of chamber music (string trio, piano quartet, "silent music" for violin and chello, string quartet No. 2) was published by Philips in 1992 as part of the Lockenhaus Collection (Vol. 9) under the number 434 040-2.

Web links

Commons : Alfred Schnittke  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b program booklet. ensembleKONTRASTE, archived from the original on May 4, 2006 ; Retrieved April 10, 2012 .
  2. В. Ю. Гаврилова «Пространство Альфреда Шнитке (к 80-летию со дня рождения)»
  3. Honorary Members: Alfred Schnittke. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 22, 2019 .
  4. ^ "Faust" in music. New scoring and classics . In: Sikorski . No. 2 . International music publishers, Hamburg 2012, p. 5 ( [PDF; accessed April 10, 2012]).
  5. ^ Niklas Rudolph: Alfred Schnittke “Viola Concerto”. (mp3, 14.1 MB, 12:09 minutes) WDR3 broadcast “Meisterstücke”, June 10, 2018, accessed on June 11, 2018 .