The second movement of Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso no. 1, Toccata, frantically evokes the baroque past, leavened with heavy borrowings from contemporary musical practice, particularly the micropolyphony of György Ligeti. This chapter begins to account for the distinctive musical language of the movement and the entire composition, its basic building blocks and its central structural and stylistic features. It addresses the music’s sources in Schnittke’s film music, including scores to a film about Rasputin (Agony, dir. Elem Klimov); an ecological cartoon (Butterfly, dir. Andrei Khrzhanovsky); a film about World War II (Ascent, dir. Larisa Shepitko); and The Tale of the Moor of Peter the Great (dir. Alexander Mitta). This background informs the chapter’s critique of Schnittke’s goal to bridge the gap between high and low in this music and his related goal to reconcile his paid job writing for film with his largely unpaid calling as a serious composer.
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