Superlative performances of Schnittke's most personal music: the composer's soul seems to be laid bare in the "Psalms of Repentance". These choral pieces, based upon 15th century poems and written to commemorate 1,000 years of Christianity in Russia, reveal none of the sardonic distancing or irony that is often characteristic of Schnittke's work. This is music from the heart, of direct emotional expression. The work takes on a special poignancy in the light of Schnittke's death in August 1998, and the Psalms can also be heard as threnody for him.
“Schnittke's 12 Penitential Psalms (1988) aren't biblical: Nos 1-11 use 16th-century Russian texts and No 12 is a wordless meditation which encapsulates the spirit and style of what precedes it. Though at times dark and despairing in tone, this is in no sense liturgical music. It's too expansive, and reaches towards the ecstatic too consistently, to qualify as ascetic or austere.
Indeed, the warmly euphonious chorale-like textures with which several of the movements end are sumptuous enough for one to imagine a soulful saxophone weaving its way through them. As this suggests, the recording is extremely, and not inappropriately, resonant, and the performance is polished to a fault, the individual lines superbly controlled and the tex- tures balanced with a fine feeling for their weight and diversity. Although some may find this issue a little too refined, it realises the work's expressive world with imposing and irresistible authenticity. In these works, Schnittke seems to be doing penance for the extravagant indulgences of pieces such as Stille Nacht and the Viola Concerto, abandoning modernism in general and expressionism in particular. The music nevertheless retains strong links with the images of lament and spiritual aspiration, and there's nothing in the least artificial or contrived about its emotional aura. It's difficult to imagine a more convincing or better recorded account of it than this one.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide