2008 Schnittke / Bach

Svetlana Ponomarëva, piano


1-5 Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998), "Five Aphorisms" (1990) 11:47

6-7 J.S. Bach (1685-1750), Prelude & Fugue in C sharp minor Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 (BWV 849) 6:31

8-11 Alfred Schnittke, Sonata No.3 (1992) 15:34

12-18 J.S. Bach, French Suite No.5 in G Major (BWV 816) 18:43

Works by Schnittke are published by Musikverlag Hans Sikorski in Hamburg

Works by Bach are from the Henle Verlag Urtext edition, articulation by Svetlana Ponomarëva



CD track 1: Five Aphorisms, Moderato Assai
CD track 9: Sonata No. 3, Allegro
CD track 12: French Suite BWV 816, Allemande
CD track 13: French Suite BWV 816, Courante

CD track 7: Fugue in C sharp minor (BWV 849) 


This CD commemorates Alfred Schnittke's 10th passing anniversary. The selected "Five Aphorisms" written in 1990 and Sonata No. 3 written in 1992 are among his late works for piano solo, rarely performed. Svetlana's performing of Schnittke solo piano is among the finest.

The CD also focuses on Bach's music as the result of Svetlana's serious work based on several in-depth researches by Alexandrov, Teregulov and Nosina from Russia on Baroque music - in particular, about articulation in Bach's Clavier music and the symbolism of his music. Svetlana chose the Prelude and Fugue BWV 849 from the Well Tempered Clavier book 1 and the French Suite No. 5 BWV 816 to illustrate this research and demonstrate how through the rules of articulation the polyphony is serving a complex dramaturgy that is both true to the epoch and still quite personal to the performer.

About the Prelude and Fugue BWV 849, from Vera Nosina, in "Symbolism in Bach's Music", Klassika-XXI, Moscow, 2006 "Christ's prayer in Gethsemane garden at night before his capture" narrates how Jesus prayed God, His Father, asked the cup of suffering to pass him, "My Father! If it is possible, may this cup to be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as You will" (Matthew Chapter 26, 39); then accepted his fate, "My Father! If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done" (Matthew Chapter 26, 42).

His Prelude is a sorrow arioso. (...) The theme's beginning motive appears in Bach's Two-part inventions in E Minor and in F Minor suggesting a similar mood - prayer concentration.
There are three themes in the Fugue. The first theme, one of the most important symbols in Bach's music, is the symbol of cross, crucifixion. The second theme is the Cup of suffering and the third is predetermination, inevitability of the upcoming sufferings. The prayer's principal meaning is the acceptance of the prepared fate, his resignation to God's will. Therefore in the last section of the fugue (94) the theme of the cup disappears and the themes of cross and predetermination sound in insistent stretto. Thus, the cup of suffering is accepted by Christ, "Let the suffering come".

The program architecture and drama is built like a journey from darkness to light: the murky universe of the "Aphorisms" leads to the drama of the Prelude and the complex five voices Fugue, intense interior dialogue that ends with the acceptance of the tragic destiny. Then, death strikes described in a clinical and terrifying way in the cinematographic Sonata No.3. Finally the French Suite offers redemption, a renaissance of pure, transparent and luminous joy.

Quoting Schnittke: "...After illness my self-awareness in the moment has grown tremendously. I often find that now - as opposed to before - I see through a person right away very clearly and at once. And I've become awfully bored. And in general I am very bored. I have the feeling that my head was taken out of this world while I was left here. I do things that I already know and do them because I am stuck here! But the head is away! I was returned back to consciousness and now I have to do everything with the feeling that I have already left... But I am still here." in "Besedy s Al'fredom Shnitke" by Alexander Ivashkin, Moscow Kul'tura, 1994.

Coupling Schnittke and Bach in one program was symbolic. Not only these two giants embrace the whole history of western classical music but also, despite the obvious difference in their respective musical language, because much of the meaning is hidden at multiple levels in both Schnittke's and Bach's music. And this makes their music beautifully inexhaustible.



Feb. 2, 2009, CKUA Classic Examples: Bach French Suite #5 BWV 816


MusicWeb International January 15, 2009

"The conjunction of Schnittke and Bach is not an obvious one but works fruitfully in this disc. Those who consider Schnittke's Third Sonata too pessimistic and the Five Aphorisms too elliptical will find that the juxtaposition works less well but that's not my experience.

The Five Aphorisms are concise, elusive but never vapid. The first is a Moderato assai and by some way the most extensive. Its elliptical gravity is finely established here and Svetlana Ponomarëva's colouristic evocation is consistently impressive. Similarly she brings out the skittish albeit wintry spirit of the second Aphorism with its plangent chordal moments of contrast. The rather unsettled central Lento is taken at a mobile tempo and the final movement, a Grave, has a stark Tarkovskian quality to it. Throughout one finds that Ponomarëva takes quicker tempi than, say, Boris Berman on his Chandos disc (CHAN9704). It brings a rather nervier, edgier, less settled quality to the music making and suits it equally well.

The Third Sonata is a brooding and ultimately ambiguous work cast in four movements. Once again she tends to be somewhat faster than Berman - though I've not heard Igor Tchetuev's set of the complete sonatas (Caro Mitis SACD CM 0092004) nor Ragna Schirmer's Berlin Classics traversals (0017292BC). The measured unease of the opening Lento gives way to a Scherzo of almost post-Mussorgskian hues in places, though the biting insistence and cluster terseness is Schnittke's own. Sanguine power is evoked in the slow movement and a brooding, reflective quality ensures that the sonata ends in unresolved tension. It's the Allegro that really separates this performance from Berman's - we find that Ponomarëva is just that much more biting.

Her G major French Suite is attractively voiced, and played with clarity and poise. It's neither as zippy (in the Courante) nor as romantically orientated (in the Sarabande) as, say, Andrei Gavrilov, to take another Russian performer as a point of contrast. Ponomarëva's slight reserve however doesn't preclude expressive commitment and she shows a sure affinity for the direction of the music-making. The single example of the Prelude and Fugue reveals a perhaps slightly over-clipped Fugue.

Fine sound quality informs this interesting release. The notes are suitably Schnittke-esque."

Jonathan Woolf