“I composed the music evoked by this text, not the music I wanted myself,”
said Alfred Schnittke about his Concerto for Choir
(1984–1985). It was inspired by a literary source, Book of Lamentations
by the medieval Armenian poet, monk, philosopher and theologian Gregory of Narek (951–1003). This is the biggest of his poetic works consisting of 95 chapters – prayers addressed to God and Mother of God. Narekatsi’s poetry is deeply Biblical and is imbued with images and themes of the Holy Writ. At the same time it is of intimate, personal nature. In the Book of Lamentations
the events of both Testaments are the starting point for reflections on life, human imperfection and sinfulness. This is a confidential talk between God and a soul full of repentance and pining for purity. The Concerto
is based on the 3rd Chapter of the Book of Lamentations
by Gregory of Narek translated by Naum Grebnev.
While being very modern in its musical language, the Concerto for Choir is deeply rooted in the very old layers of musical thinking. There are no direct quotations in the work, but the spirit of the medieval Armenian chants is always there, showing itself in certain intonation phrases and the general choir structure. But the Russian roots are even more pronounced, referring us to choral concertos by Russian composers of the 18th century and, more globally,to Russian choir culture.
Yulia Senyukova, the Chief Choirmaster:
“About 20 years ago I participated in performing and, later, in recoding Schnittke’s Concerto as a member of the Chamber Choir led by Boris Tevlin. We sang the Concerto in the USA when representing Russia at the Chorus Forum. After a number of years I want to recall the pieceand return to it in a different role. By the way, I sometimes realize during the rehearsals that I am having a sort of inner dialogue with my deceased teacher Boris Tevlin.”
Aleksey Veiro, stage director:
“The conceptof the Different.3 festival makes Schnittke’s Concerto to Verses by Gregory of Narek a certain entrance, a gate. Here appears the image of a human being who learns that there is God; it is the beginning of movement from reality to something Absolute, perfect; it is a perspective of this journey from its origin to the future climax.“