Alfred Schnittke

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Alfred Schnittke
Quasi una Sonata. Works for violin and piano

Joanna Kurkowicz violin
Sergey Schepkin piano
Bridge 9104 (2001)

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Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano
Andante mp3
Allegro mp3
Largo mp3
Allegretto Scherzando-Allegro-Largo-Allegretto mp3
A Paganini for Violin solo mp3
Sonata No.2( Quasi una Sonata) for Violin and Piano listen mp3
Prelude in Memoriam Dmitri Shostakovitch for Violin and Tape mp3


Polish violinist Joanna Kurkowicz makes a strong impact in these performances. Her playing holds one enthralled, demonstrating a strong personality and an assured technique. She copes confidently and effortlessly with the technical hurdles of A Paganini, emphasizing Schnittke’s playful humour, and gives and intensely moving, elegiac account of his Prelude in Memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich in the version for violin and tape.

Kurkowicz’s partnership with Russian pianist Sergey Schepkin serves Schnittke’s first two violin sonatas well, imparting understanding and shape to his multi-facered style. These performers tackle the First Sonata’s serialism with flair and purpose, bringing out the reflective and sometimes impassioned moods of opening Andante and the driving energy and forced humour of the ensuing Allegro. They reproduce faithfully and effectively the lozenge-shaped dynamic of the Largo, a passcaglia in the style of Shostakovich, executing concluding bars with admirable control…

The disc takes its title from the Second Sonata’s subtitle “Quasi una Sonata.” This single movement piece marks the beginning of a new polystylistic phase in Schnittke’s careerm asking much of its performers in terms of technique, expression and musical-structural comprehension. Kurkowicz and Schepkin meet these challenges head on and get firmly to grips with Schnittke’s extremely free mode of expression, clarifying in particular exhaustive re-working of the B-A-C-H motif for all to savour.
—Robin Stowell, STRAD MAGAZINE


These are testing works, both in terms of their technical demands and–in the case of sonatas–simply to make their diverse and fragmented structures cogent, and the performers rise effectively to the challenge in a pleasantly natural recording. Kurkowicz’s flamboyant account of A Paganini especially excited my admiration… History is going to weed out quite a lot Schnittke’s prolific output, but these four pieces will surely stand the test of time.
—BBC Music


…Schnittke works can be difficult to perform, and in some cases, virtually impenetrable to audiences. But these fiery works have warmth and humor. In this remarkable disc, Joanna Kurkowicz and Sergey Schepkin find both. Their rendition of the twelve-tone Violin Sonata No. 1 veers from sardonic to tender, capped by bizarre rhumba rhythms in IV. These two musicians perform as if joined at the hip…
Kurkowicz’s interpretation of Schnittke’s A Paganini is a wondrous foray into solo virtuoso technique. Kurkowicz is fearless. She doesn’t feel compelled to rush through the work…
Like most of Schnittke’s works, the Sonata No. 2 (wryly subtitled “Quasi una Sonata”) is a struggle between dissonance and consonance. Unusual techniques abound but these performers careen through the tone clusters and microtonal brambles like dancers through dense forests. Like the photo on the booklet’s cover, their interpretative light streams through the bars. In one passage, Kurkowicz’s violin shimmies up and down the scale, producing a seductive squeal. At other moments, she finds intriguing ways to decode Schnittke’s erratic polystylism; for example, she uses wit when modulating those cranky tempo shifts…
—Peter Bates, MusicWeb, UK


“…crystal clear, commited and well played, with good sound to match.”


“…Joanna Kurkowicz sensibly presents all the complexity of Schnittke’s music–melancholy, distress, fear, despair, grotesque, humor–as well as it’s sophisticated virtuosity.”


“Kurkowicz’s performance was splendid, wondrous and colorful. She played with intensity and respect for this great music.”

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