One of the great violinists of our age in the Everest of violin concertos is in itself an enticing prospect. That’s further enhanced here by an unlikely but stimulating meeting of minds in which Kremer links Beethoven to one of the great composers of our own age.
As a long-standing friend and musical partner of Alfred Schnittke – together they played on the recording of Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa that brought the Estonian composer to international attention – Gidon Kremer asked him for cadenzas that would, naturally, go beyond the Romantic tropes of Joachim and Kreisler beloved of most violinists.
Schnittke did not disappoint, with material – not just the main first-movement cadenza but lead-ins at appropriate points in the finale – that take Beethoven’s material – as any cadenza should – and reflect it through a more modern, fragmentary prism, in which the whole literature of violin concertos is wittily referenced and obliquely reflected.
His cadenzas, and Kremer’s ever-committed playing, make a striking example of what Schnittke called his ‘polystylism’, demonstrating his belief in the essential unity of musical thought through all the changes in style across the centuries.
“When Gidon Kremer's interpretation of Beethoven's Violin Concerto...was originally issued in the early 1980s, the cadenzas written for him by his friend Alfred Schnittke caused a sensation...Even decades later, their flinty, abrasive manner causes a considerable shock...But such is Kremer's virtuosic command of both instrument and material that the clash does not destroy the piece” The Independent, 13th May 2011 ****