Conductor: Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Yuri Bashmet
Tatiana Grindenko, Gidon Kremer (violin); Natalia Gutman (cello)
USSR Ministry Of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Moscow Philharmonic Society Solosits Ensemble
Schnittke's Cello Concerto is a big, heavy work consisting of two dark and gloomy slow movements followed by a considerably lighter one that ends in quasi-Mahlerian fashion. During all this, the soloist functions less as a protagonist than as a guide through the far-flung, sometimes treacherous musical terrain. Natalia Gutman, familiar to many through her impressive concerto recordings on RCA (Shostakovich) and EMI (Dvorak), proves equally potent in the Schnittke. Her confident, technically assured playing features an emotional directness that enhances the impact of Schnittke's troubled work. Rozhdestvenksy and the USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony prove just as inspired in the orchestral accompaniment.
Concerto Grosso No. 1 for two violins, harpsichord, prepared piano, and strings evokes an altogether different sound world. Yuri Bashmet and his ensemble bring a riveting energy to this work while reveling in its prickly harmonies and edgy neo-classical sonorities. Gidon Kremer and Tatiana Grindenko's later DG recording with Heinrich Schiff is even more impressive. There the players push themselves to the limit in such manic passages as the near-delirious finale, while the far superior recording quality gives the full effect of Schnittke's abrupt dynamic shifts and crunching dissonances. Still, Bashmet's reading is very good, and anyone desiring this particular coupling (notwithstanding the sonic limitations) will be duly satisfied.
-Victor Carr Jr (All Music Guide)