Schnittke: The Early Years
1st June 2007
Nagasaki, an oratorio for mezzo-soprano, mixed choir and orchestra, was written while a student at the Moscow Conservatory. Composed in response to the drastic and far-reaching effects of WWII, Nagasaki features a Russian-language setting (in five movements) based on poems by official Soviet poet Anatoly Sofrnov, and Russian translations of works by the Japanese poets Shimazaki Toson and Eisaku Yoneda (a resident of Hiroshima). Schnittke noted later in life that he thought the topic was extremely important and poignant. “It is a very honest work, where I was absolutely sincere.” Nagasaki was recorded in Moscow and broadcast in Japan in 1959, but did not receive its world premiere performance until 23 November 2006 at the Cape Town International Summer Music Festival in South Africa. Mezzo-soprano Hanneli Rupert joined the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cape Town Opera Voice of the Nation chorus, led by Owain Arwel Hughes.
Also written during his conservatory training years, Symphony No. 0 follows the standard four-movement structure. It exhibits a Shostakovian influence, as well as that of Nikolai Myaskovsky with its elegant, expressive melodic writing for strings and winds, mixed with 20th-century Western elements of percussion and declamatory articulation. Symphony No. 0 premiered in 1957 in its only performance given by the Moscow Conservatory Symphony led by Algis Zhiuraitis.
Both works await their US premiere.
Symphony No. 0 (1957) 30'
Nagasaki (1959) 40'
Mezzo-soprano; SATB chorus