Piano Quartet (1988)

for 'cello, viola, piano, violin
By Alfred Schnittke

An intriguing manifestation of Schnittke’s “polystylism”, the Piano Quartet is also a thought-experiment in the autonomous work, and its status in late modern concert life.

At the same moment the work is a complete and coherent work, developing several strands of the composers work practice, and at the same time it is an appendix to another work, a completion of sketches left behind by Mahler for a Scherzo companion movement to the unfinished Piano Quartet.

As with so much Schnittke, tonal, late Romantic conventions and grammars inter-penetrate with Mahler’s dream-like theme, producing a kind of nostalgia akin to that of the Viennese composer, but also something fresher, closer to our own time, and perhaps more sorrowful for the distance from its sources and traditions.

Other works by Alfred Schnittke:
“A gentleman brought music to his lady's window, who hated him,...and when he persisted, she threw stones at him. Whereupon a friend of his that was within his company, said to him; "What greater honour can you have to your music, than that stones come about you, as they did to Orpheus."”
--Francis Bacon