March/April 2009, "Gramophone" magazine, UK
Schnittke/Igor Tchctuev. At last, a sincere and rewarding
survey of Schnittke's piano sonatas Alfred Schnittke's piano sonatas have allways struck me as one of the most problematic areas of what remains a problematic output. The First Sonata begins promisingly with inchoate melodic material hammering away in the upper register of the piano where it gets covered in a halo of resonating harmonics, before Schnittke confronts it with a nonchalantly reluctant chorale - but this opposition of material begins to feel stagemanaged and contrived. The Second and Third Sonatas are more robust and considered, but it's probably fair to conclude that Schnittke wasn't an instinctive composer for piano.
In her sleeve-notes, Anna Andmshkevich suggests that the sonatas - written within four years of each other - are in fact "one work, one Sonata, uttered three times". Igor Tchetuev's cohesive approach would tend to uphold that view. That strikingly left-field opening of the First Sonata is never allowed to become disappointingly earthbound. He keeps the contrasting layers of Schnittke's material clearly defined but the direction remains mysteriously open-ended, and Tchetuev's sound is translucenl and searching. The tone and manner in which he delivers the First Sonata's Lento is evoked during the equivalent moment in the Third Sonata, as he cogently implies a kinship of material. The First Sonata concludes with chaotic, bruising clusters that don't sit entirely convincingly on the keyboard, but Tchetuev achieves a bracing discontinuity and his sincere intellectual curiosity about these pieces is overwhelmingly rewarding. The small-scale Improvisation and Fugue is a welcome encore, its complex structures brilliantly handled.