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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHNITTKE, A.: Film Music, Vol. 4 (Berlin Radio Symphony, Strobel) - Sport, Sport, Sport / Adventures of a Dentist Suite
By Jens F. Laurson
By Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found
By John Sunier
I should first explain that Schnittke has been among those few composers I simply cannot abide. That was before hearing this disc and learning that it is just the latest of four volumes of some fascinating music for the films by the Soviet/Russian composer who lived until 1998. While he was one of the most important composers of “serious” music in the former Soviet Union, he also composed scores for over 60 filmscit’s just that they weren’t distributed in the West so we don’t see Schnittke in the company of John Williams, Korngold, Elmer Bernstein and the rest on the Hollywood scene.
And Schnittke’s film music is quite different from his abstract music. He obviously wanted to catch the ears of the proletariat. He is not afraid to quote or parody every sort of music: works of other composers, jazz, popular music, tango, world music, you name it. His quotations of other classical composers or styles reminded me of William Bolcom, but then fellow Russian composer Shostakovich (who also did many soundtrack scores) was not above quoting other well-known tunes such as the William Tell Overture.
Many of these films were fairytale farces, parodies or absurd theater, and Schnittke created appropriate scores for them, always keeping in mind the views of the censors who would be seeing and hearing them. Irony was heavy in some of the early Soviet films, but later the filmmakers and composers had to be more sophisticated and subtle in getting their messages across. Both of the films in this volume were directed by Elem Klimov, and like most of his films was banned until Perestroika allowed their release. The first film suite has six cues and the second nine. “Sport, Sport, Sport” of 1970 was a satire on the Soviet promotion of athletic prowess and fitness—little wonder it was banned! It has a dizzying variety of musical sources—including Mahler, Bach, Chopin waltzes and a tango—played on electric guitars, celestas, prepared pianos, mandolin and bongos, among others. A sparkling minuet is the theme music for a gymnast who features in the film. Now I want to see the film.
Klimov’s satirical film about a dentist is quite different from Jack Nicholson’s early portrayal of a man who absolutely loves being in the dentist’s chair. The moral of Klimov’s satire is “he who stands out is soon cut down.” The score adopts concerto grosso forms in the style of Bach and Handel—there is even a quote from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Again, unexpected instruments pop up—a harpsichord playing a Charleston, a tenor sax and a marimba. One scene sounds like a slow movement from a Bach violin concerto. The hi-res surround sonics are of course superb—a major contrast to the barely listenable mono sonics on most older Russian films.
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SCHNITTKE, A.: Film Music, Vol. 4 (Berlin Radio Sy...