Like many other avant-garde composers in Soviet-controlled states, Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) was often forced to turn to film-scoring for a living.

Like many other avant-garde composers in Soviet-controlled states, Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) was often forced to turn to film-scoring for a living. And, like that of his compatriots, Schnittke's movie music has long gone unheard. This is a shame, since his polystylistic bent was tailor-made for films—as this fine disc proves. The enterprising conductor Frank Strobel and the Berlin Radio Orchestra present premiere recordings of suites from four Schnittke-scored Russian projects. Because the composer frequently used his film work as a laboratory, these scores contain echoes of more familiar concert pieces, such as the Second Cello Concerto in Agony. Drawing from both his sardonic early style and his late, more enigmatic manner, the other suites come from My Past and Thoughts, The End of St. Petersburg, and The Master and Margarita. The music's emotional landscape ranges wide, from intense foreboding to macabre irony; a skewed tango may abut a passage of shattered beauty, with the strangely haunted result needing no visuals. The German CPO label is distributed in the U.S. by HNH and in the U.K. by Select.—BB