MUSIC: The Sound of Russian Fury

Against all odds, the spiky, eclectic music of Alfred Schnittke is enthralling -- and terrifying -- audiences worldwide

There is something so tenebrous, so portentous, so downright antagonistic about Alfred Schnittke's music that it is almost a wonder anybody either performs it or listens to it. In Schnittke's dark, Russo-Germanic artistic universe, strings do not soar, they brood; woodwinds do not chirp, they protest; brass does not shine, it glowers. Created in the caldron of Central Europe, his music speaks of epic battles and terrible defeats; it is Kutuzov and Napoleon at Borodino, Von Paulus at Stalingrad. Why, then, is it suddenly so popular?

Not, of course, popular in the Michael Jackson sense; you won't see the Concerto Grosso...

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