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08/10/1998 10:35:34 FOCUS Russia mourns composer Schnittke


Foto: REUTERS. A Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich bows as he stands near the coffin of composer Alfred Schnittke August 10. The body of Schnittke lay in state on Monday in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory where he once taught, as Russia prepared to bury one of its last great musical voices of the century.

(Recasts with ceremony underway)

By Peter Graff

MOSCOW, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Hundreds of mourners laid flowers

on Monday at the coffin of Russian composer Alfred Schnittke in

the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory where he once taught.

Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko and some of the world's

greatest musicians paid their last respects to Schnittke, whose

body was flown to Moscow on Saturday from Hamburg, Germany,

where he had died, aged 63, on August 3 after a long illness.

The mourners filed past the open coffin at the foot of the

stage in the famed concert hall, where Schnittke's last, ninth

symphony received its premiere two months ago.

He was to be interred later on Monday in the cemetery at

Moscow's mediaeval Novodevichy convent, where many of country's

great composers, writers and public figures are buried.

Schnittke, who composed symphonies, concerti, operas, choral

works and more than 60 film scores, gained worldwide

appreciation for his work, which drew on the ancient as well as

the modern, the lyrical as well as the cerebral.

Among the Russian virtuosi paying homage were violinist

Gidon Kremer and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who had been

tireless supporters of the composer's music in the West before

and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

On the day of Schnittke's death, Kremer told Reuters: "His

music always was and will remain a sincere statement on the

conflicts of our times and the conflicts of the country he lived

in most of his life, the former Soviet Union.

"It reflected the complexity of the battle between free

spirits and totalitarian ideology."

Like earlier Soviet composers, such as Sergei Prokofiev and

Dmitry Shostakovich, Schnittke was often caught between the

abstract language of 20th century classical music and a state

that was sceptical of modernism.

Like them, he often drew inspiration from the past. His

fourth symphony used elements from Russian Orthodox, Roman

Catholic, Lutheran and Jewish music.

"He saw himself as a medium who would connect the past with

the future," Kremer said.

Speaking at Monday's ceremony, conductor Gennady

Rozhdestvensky compared Schnittke with some of the greatest

Russian composers of the century.

"Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Schnittke ... put

the entire huge arsenal of contemporary musical language to the

service of melody," he said.

"In Schnittke's universe reigned beauty, truth, perfection

of form and greatness of soul''.

President Boris Yeltsin, in a telegram of condolence to

Schnittke's widow, Irina, said: "Winning worldwide renown, he

glorified our national culture and enriched the tradition of

Russian classical music with his unique, innovative ideas."

Schnittke was born on November 24, 1934 in the town of

Engels on the Volga river. His mother was an ethnic German and

his father a Jewish journalist who had moved to Russia from

Frankfurt. At the end of his life, Schnittke held dual

Russian-German citizenship.


Foto: REUTERS. Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko stands near the coffin of composer Alfred Schnittke August 10. The body of Schnittke lay in state on Monday in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory where he once taught, as Russia prepared to bury one of its last great musical voices of the century.

Foto: REUTERS. Irina Schnittke (C), the wife of Alfred Schnittke, his son Andrey (L) and sister attend a farewell ceremony for the composer August 10. The body of Schnittke lay in state on Monday in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory where he once taught, as Russia prepared to bury one of its last great musical voices of the century.

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