January 3rd, 2020


Alfred Schnittke - Magrigal in memoriam Oleg Kagan

Alfred Schnittke was never a composer who crossed over into popular culture. He's best known in the English-speaking world owing to his music being championed by Gidon Kremer. There's much to love in those pieces: the dazzling postmodernism, the dry wit, the flash and the sparkle. What makes pieces like his Concerto grossi so successful is the way he could turn the mood on a single note, from exhilaration into abject dread.

By the time he came to write Magrigal in memoriam Oleg Kagan in 1991, that dread was virtually all that was left. It is a painfully sad piece of music for solo cello. It is not sad on a grand scale, it is not trying to be clever or profound, it is an intensely miserable and private sorrow that resents your attention. Listening to it can be a savage and awful experience, an unflinching meditation on death and loss. Here it is played by Alban Gerhardt from the album Shostakovich & Schnittke: Cello Sonatas.

Alfred Schnittke - Magrigal in memoriam Oleg Kagan