ALBUM 5: Symphony No. 0 (1956 – 57) Nagasaki

Hanneli is accompanied by Cape Town Opera Voice of the Nation Choir and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.

The most important composer to arise in Russia after Shostakovich, Alfred Schnittke (1934 – 1998) opened up new dimensions for Russian music. In his music we find a mixture of old and new styles, of modern, post-modern, classical and baroque idioms.

This album presents two highly significant early works, composed by Schnittke when he was still a student at the Moscow Conservatory: his Symphony (1956 – 57) and his oratorio Nagasaki (1958), the latter being his graduation piece at the Conservatory. If in the Symphony the orchestra is of a medium size, the oratorio Nagasaki calls for a very large orchestra as well as a choir. It is one of the largest orchestral settings in all of Schnittke’s music.

The text of Nagasaki (in Russian) is a mixture of a typical Soviet propaganda poem by the official poet Anatoly Sofronov (first movement, ‘Nagasaki, city of grief’) and the translations of poems written by two Japanese poets, Eisaku Yoneda (a resident of Hiroshima) and Shimazaki Toson. Schnittke was not fond of Sofronov’s poem, but was persuaded by his professor to use it. He thought the topic itself (the atomic bomb explosion in Nagasaki) was of the utmost importance, with great potential for a composer.
– Alexander Ivashkin