One of the most distinctive, and most famous, movements in Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso no. 1 is the fifth, Rondo, which returns to the frantic baroque gestures of the second movement but with a promise of redemption. Most notably, these gestures, among them thrumming strings, are interrupted by the seductive strains of a tango, resulting in one of Schnittke’s most obvious and yet most effective polystylistic collisions. The Rondo points to the larger philosophical questions raised by the score. This chapter examines the construction and meaning of the Rondo, as well as its critical reception, focusing particularly on the larger implications of its clashes between high and low. The chapter closes by examining choreographer John Neumeier’s use of the Concerto Grosso no. 1 in his 1985 ballet Othello.
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