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<<  -- 2 --  Malcolm Miller    SEEKING THE SOUL


The first movement's opening rumblings in the large double bass section may appear simple in effect, though according to Susan Bradshaw's copious programme notes, the material is based on elliptical musical monograms of some twenty composers. Similarly the 'first subject', a rising arpeggio in bassoons or brass, developed into a complex heterophonic triad, is also a brashly simple gesture, and appears also to be a reference to the slow movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony. Another bold gesture, a triadic flourish usually presented by brass and wind in a fanfare, bombastic style, later echoed by strings, contrasts starkly with the more bitter sweet dissonance or chromaticism of the remainder of the argument, frequently assigned to strings. Here Schnittke indulges in some Tristanesque textures, even a quote of the Tristan motif, and echoes of Berlioz, often disrupting continuity with interjections of striking sustained high notes and bold emphases.

There is a cinematic quality to the dramatic unfolding of the second, sonata form movement, where gestures are inverted in meaning. Thinner in texture, the movement is distinctively framed by a piano solo Mozartian melody, transformed in the final bars to a nostalgic fragmentary reminiscence. Snippets of waltz occasionally float through, the Mozart connection abruptly contrasted by ostinatos, lilting chords, and variants of the Mozartian melody in Russian sounding woodwind lines. Shades of Mahler and Shostakovich flit through the texture in which dissonances set against a tonally referential idiom and allusions to earlier styles are set within absolute musical structures. In the Scherzo movement brash, big band brass emerge over fast changing string textures. In the Adagio finale Leonard Slatkin seemed to expand his conducting gestures to allow immense cataclysmic crescendos to unfold, releasing finally into a quietly, nostalgic coda that cyclically reconnects with the murmuring introduction.

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Copyright © 19 January 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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