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Alfred Schnittke


In 1975, the famous director of the Taganka Theater – Yuri Lyubimov, the experimental Russian director, asked Alfred Schnittke to write a musical arrangement for his new play “The Census List” based on works by Nikolai Gogol. This is not the first encounter of the composer with the theatrical avant-garde – two years earlier he had already worked on the play “Turandot” by Bertold Brecht, but unfortunately the theater did not receive permission from the widow of the German playwright and the work was suspended. And there again he was offered a cooperation, gladly accepted by him. The leitmotif of Schnittke’s works has always been the man with his experiences, passions and emotions, so the opportunity to combine the tragic and the comic immediately attracted him. His enthusiasm was so great that after the rehearsals we dashed to the director’s house with sketches already drafted. According to Lyubimov, a very important role is assigned to the music in this. It fills the space, illustrates the time of the action and even allows them to give up the sets. 


I. Overture

"The clash of the sublime and the lowly in his [Gogol's] works, the use of the banal - all that, of course, influenced me greatly. A hit is a good mask for all kinds of devilry, a way to get into the soul."


A. Schnittke 


II. Chichikov's Childhood

The music absolutely coincides with what is happening on stage. Out of a little sprout grows a head. […] Soon it becomes huge. Out of the plant emerges a totally featureless person. All his features are gray and common. Middle height, rank and face. All is nothing. The name of this gentleman is Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov.


Description of the play „The Revisor’s Tale“ in the Taganka Theater 


III. Portrait

"Beware that you don’t become a fashionable painter. Even now your colors are beginning to shout too vigorously. Your drawing is not strict and sometimes even weak, the line is not visible; you are chasing after the fashionable lighting, the one that hits the first eye. Look, you're just about to fall into the English style. Beware; you're beginning to be drawn to the light; I see you sometimes wearing a dapper scarf around your neck, a hat with glamour... It's tempting, you can start painting fancy pictures, little portraits for money. But that's what ruins talent, not what develops it.


Gogol, The Portrait


IV. Overcoat

"In the department… but it is better not to say which department. There is nothing angrier than all kinds of departments, regiments, offices and in a word, all kinds of official estates."


Gogol, The Overcoat


V. Bureaucrats

Gogol was a harsh critic of the bureaucrats: “With laughter on his lips, he pierces without pity into the innermost folds of an impure, malicious bureaucrat’s soul.” I.A. Gertsen about Gogol

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VI. Ball

"In the depths of cold laughter can be found hot sparks of eternal, powerful love, and who knows […] maybe the one who often sheds heartfelt, deep tears seems to be the one who laughs the most in the world.“

Gogol with the voice of the „author“ in his Theatrical Separation


VII. Testimony

In the last and probably most dark movement of the Gogol-Suite called „Testimony“ Schnittke quotes the Ukrainian folksong „Піють півні“.




Hovik Sardaryan

A welling spring, a self-springing stream or a wheel rolling out of itself (Nietzsche) - these metaphors aptly characterize this work. It consists of two movements, a kind of "prelude and fugue". In the first movement, each pianist has four lines to play, making a total of eight lines. These are intended as separate lines or waves, which nevertheless strive towards an overall dynamic sound. These lines are considered as waves or a mountain landscape, where you look from one peak to another, but at the same time do not push other mountains out of the picture. The lines are organized like waves, each with its own phase, all different.

This piece was commissioned by DuoNoema. Our interview with the composer Hovik Sardaryan will be published soon!


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