I found this compilation when I was looking around for work by Альфред Шнитке, or Alfred Schnittke that he’s better known for us in the western world. I have a big fascination for how lives were in countries run by dictators or other totalitarian societies, so Soviet Union is of course high on that list. This compilation was first released in 1990 by the Soviet/Russian label Мелодия. A USSR state label founded in 1964. Now a Russian label. The label is also known in the west as Melody, Melodia, Melodiya or Melodija. It was then re-released in 2016 by Modern Silence, a bootleg label based in Malta focused on classical, avant-garde, and jazz music.
I don’t really know who to review this, you really have to listen for yourself. But it’s certainly interesting, both in a historical and musical sense. A couple of tracks feels more like random sounds then music, but the last track ”Поток/Stream” by Mr. Schnittke is just amazing and I listened to it over and over again. It would fit right into any modern day Dark Ambient compilation.
From the liner notes:
“(…) Please, try to imagine a score sounding by itself without a conductor, an orchestra even without musical instruments. This magic is possible by using the musical synthesizer, ANS. ANS is an instrument with which a composer can not only create but even draw his music without notes and orchestra. A Soviet scientist Evgeny Murzin spent about 20 years creating this apparatus which can join together three processes: music creation, recording and performing. All these processes are rather complicated. You can see the twinkling of different lamps, the rotation of grooved discs made of glass – notes are cut on a glass disc covered with a special layer; The drawings on the glass are ‘sounding notes’.
To listen to the drawn picture you should press the button and a wonderful transformation will begin. Murzin dedicated his apparatus to Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, that’s why he called it ANS. Scriabin, the creator of the ‘Poem of Ecstasy’, used in his works a highly chromatic, new type of harmonic style designed to express his beliefs, views and wishes. Soviet music lovers already know some recordings made on ANS from the films Into Space, Solaris (1972), Mirror (1975), Siberiade (1979) and others. Works of well-known Soviet composers E. Artemiev, O. Buloshkin, E. Denisov, S. Gubaidulina, A. Schnittke featured on this LP were recorded at the Electronic Music Studio (…)”
Альфред Гарриевич Шнитке (Alfred Garyevich Schnittke)
Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) was born on 24 November 1934 in Engels, on the Volga River, in the Soviet Union. His father was born in Frankfurt to a Jewish family of Russian origin who had moved to the USSR in 1926, and his mother was a Volga-German born in Russia. Schnittke began his musical education in 1946 in Vienna where his father, a journalist and translator, had been posted. In 1948 the family moved to Moscow, where Schnittke studied piano and received a diploma in choral conducting. From 1953 to 1958 he studied counterpoint and composition with Yevgeny Golubev and instrumentation with Nikolai Rakov at the Moscow Conservatory. Schnittke completed the postgraduate course in composition there in 1961 and joined the Union of Composers the same year. He was particularly encouraged by Phillip Herschkowitz, a Webern disciple, who resided in the Soviet capital. In 1962, Schnittke was appointed instructor in instrumentation at the Moscow Conservatory, a post which he held until 1972. Thereafter he supported himself chiefly as a composer of film scores; by 1984 he had scored more than 60 films. Noted, above all, for his hallmark “polystylistic” idiom, Schnittke has written in a wide range of genres and styles. His “Concerto Grosso No. 1” (1977) was one of the first works to bring his name to prominence. It was popularized by Gidon Kremer, a tireless proponent of his music. Many of Schnittke’s works have been inspired by Kremer and other prominent performers, including Yury Bashmet, Natalia Gutman, Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Mstislav Rostropovich. Schnittke first came to America in 1988 for the “Making Music Together” Festival in Boston and the American premiere of “Symphony No. 1” by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He came again in 1991 when Carnegie Hall commissioned “Concerto Grosso No. 5” for the Cleveland Orchestra as part of its Centennial Festival, and again in 1994 for the world premiere of his “Symphony No. 7” by the New York Philharmonic and the American premiere of his “Symphony No. 6” by the National Symphony. Schnittke composed 9 symphonies, 6 concerti grossi, 4 violin concertos, 2 cello concertos, concertos for piano and a triple concerto for violin, viola and cello, as well as 4 string quartets and much other chamber music, ballet scores, choral and vocal works. His first opera, “Life with an Idiot”, was premiered in Amsterdam (April 1992). His two new operas, “Gesualdo” and “Historia von D. Johann Fausten” were unveiled in Vienna (May 1995) and Hamburg (June 1995) respectively. From the 1980s, Schnittke’s music gained increasing exposure and international acclaim. Schnittke has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including Austrian State Prize in 1991, Japan’s Imperial Prize in 1992, and, most recently the Slava-Gloria-Prize in Moscow in June 1998; his music has been celebrated with retrospectives and major festivals worldwide. More than 50 compact discs devoted exclusively to his music have been released in the last ten years. In 1985, Schnittke suffered the first of a series of serious strokes. Despite his physical frailty, however, Schnittke suffered no loss of creative imagination, individuality or productivity. Beginning in 1990, Schnittke resided in Hamburg, maintaining dual German-Russian citizenship. He died, after suffering another stroke, on 3 August 1998 in Hamburg. He was married to pianist Irina Schnittke.
Эдуард Артемьев (Eduard Nikolajewitsch Artemjew)
Born 30 November 1937 in Novosibirsk. Artemiev is a Russian composer of electronic music and film scores. Probably best known for his music in the Soviet era films by Andrei Tarkovsky, Nikita Mikhalkov and Andrei Konchalovsky, he has been composing since the 1960s.
София Губайдулина (Sofia Gubaidulina)
She was born in Chistopol in the Tatar Republic of the Soviet Union in October 24, 1931. After instruction in piano and composition at the Kazan Conservatory, she studied composition with Nikolai Peiko at the Moscow Conservatory, pursuing graduate studies there under Vissarion Shebalin. Until 1992, she lived in Moscow. Since then, she has made her primary residence in Germany, outside Hamburg. Gubaidulina’s compositional interests have been stimulated by the tactile exploration and improvisation with rare Russian, Caucasian, and Asian folk and ritual instruments collected by the “Astreia” ensemble, of which she was a co-founder, by the rapid absorption and personalization of contemporary Western musical techniques (a characteristic, too, of other Soviet composers of the post-Stalin generation including Edison Denisov and Alfred Schnittke ), and by a deep-rooted belief in the mystical properties of music. Her uncompromising dedication to a singular vision did not endear her to the Soviet musical establishment, but her music was championed in Russia by a number of devoted performers including Vladimir Tonkha, Friedrich Lips, Mark Pekarsky, and Valery Popov. The determined advocacy of Gidon Kremer, dedicatee of Gubaidulina’s masterly violin concerto, Offertorium , helped bring the composer to international attention in the early 1980s. Gubaidulina is the author of symphonic and choral works, two cello concerti, a viola concerto, four string quartets, a string trio, works for percussion ensemble, and many works for nonstandard instruments and distinctive combinations of instruments. Her scores frequently explore unconventional techniques of sound production.
Эдисон Васильевич Денисов (Edison Denisov)
Denisov was born in Tomsk, Siberia, into the family of a radio physicist, who gave him the very unusual first name Edison, in honour of Thomas Edison. He studied mathematics before deciding to spend his life composing. This decision was enthusiastically supported by Dmitri Shostakovich, who gave him lessons in composition.
In 1951–56 Denisov studied at the Moscow Conservatory: composition with Vissarion Shebalin, orchestration with Nikolay Rakov, analysis with Viktor Tsukkerman and piano with Vladimir Belov. In 1956–59 he composed the opera Ivan-Soldat (Soldier Ivan) in three acts based on Russian folk fairy tales.
He began his own study of scores that were difficult to obtain in the USSR at that time, including music by composers ranging from Mahler and Debussy to Boulez and Stockhausen. He wrote a series of articles giving a detailed analysis of different aspects of contemporary compositional techniques and at same time actively experimented as a composer, trying to find his own way.
Denisov’s cycle for soprano and chamber ensemble Le soleil des Incas (1964), setting poems by Gabriela Mistral and dedicated to Pierre Boulez, brought him international recognition following a series of successful performances of the work in Darmstadt and Paris (1965). Igor Stravinsky liked the piece, discovering the “remarkable talent” of its composer. However, it was harshly criticised by the Union of Soviet Composers for its “western influences”, “erudition instead of creativity”, and “total composer’s arbitrary” (Tikhon Khrennikov). After that, performances of his works were frequently banned in the Soviet Union.
In 1979, at the Sixth Congress of the Union of Soviet Composers, he was blacklisted as one of “Khrennikov’s Seven” for unapproved participation in a number of festivals of Soviet music in the West.
Denisov became a leader of the Association for Contemporary Music reestablished in Moscow in 1990. Later he moved to France, where after an accident and long illness he died in a Paris hospital in 1996.
Олег Булошкин (Oleg Buloshkin)
Sorry, but I couldn’t find any background information about him.