Alexander Raskatov: Dolce Far Niente "Sweetness of Doing Nothing"

Program Note

Alexander Raskatov was born in Moscow, the son of a writer for the satirical Soviet publication, Krokodil. He attended the Moscow Conservatoire and studied under Albert Leman, graduating in 1978. Coinciding with the fall of the USSR in the early 1990s, the composer’s late 30s led him away from, in his words, “the forgotten Romantic idioms” which he had been exploring in his early work. He began to think of structure in a new way, as a “static non-action” which generated “weaker or relaxed musical forms.” During this period, Raskatov employed avant-garde syntax that was usually utilized as a tool to explore dissonance. In Raskatov’s toolbox, they instead serve to create effects that bear more resemblance to “a symbol of the naïve world of a child” than to the thornier tonalities of his contemporaries. In a 2010 interview, Raskatov expressed that “the modern world’s sound environment reminds me of childhood illusions and requires some escape from the limits of serious academic music making.” 

Raskatov’s viola concerto, The Path (2003), was performed by Yuri Bashmet and the Rotterdam Philharmonic under Valery Gergiev. In 2007, Irina Schnittke asked him to reconstruct her late husband’s unfinished Ninth Symphony, and his interpretation of the work was well received. His opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s classic novel, premiered in Amsterdam in 2010 and pays significant homage to the Soviet absurdist operas, such as Shostakovich's The Nose (1928) and Schnittke's Life With an Idiot (1992), which were its predecessors. His most recent work, Green Mass (2016), was performed this year by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Choir of Clare College in Cambridge.

—Josh Davidoff