Concerto for Mixed Choir is Alfred Schnittke's major choral work, created in 1984 - 1985. The piece is based on "The Book of Mournful Songs" by the great Armenian medieval poet, Gregor Narekatsi (951 - 1003).
"The Book of Mournful Songs" is a definitive work by the poet, written near the end of his life. Already greatly popular in the Middle Ages, it was read and passed down through generations, its images given numerous interpretations. Narekatsi's book focuses on man's inner life and is vastly colored with humanistic individualism, typical of Armenian poetry and philosophy of the time.
In his Choir Concerto, Schnittke sought to reflect the poet's world, diverse and full of contrast. "Narakatsi's text", said the composer, "is but a preparation for the understanding of actual meaning, which is revealed in the process of reading but cannot be conveyed in words." Schnittke's concerto, a combination of conveyed and hidden meanings, is characteristic of the whole work. Expressive vocalism surrounds recitation, creating a symbolic plan of sound. The tangibility of the text in the first movement dissolves into serene semi-tonal psalmody in the second, into major triads, and eventually rises into a sphere of abstract images.
Alfred Schnittke completed his Choir Concerto in the summer of 1985 and dedicated it to Valeri Polyansky and the USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber Choir.
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