Alfred Schnittke was the son to German-Jewish father and Volga-German mother from Frankfurt am Main. His musical education started in 1946 in Vienna, where his father worked as a journalist and translator, and from 1948 he continued his studies in Moscow. From the 1970s, he would fully dedicate himself to composing.
Schnittke's style was initially avant garde, strongly influenced by the Western composition techniques such as serialism and aleatorism. Like so many of his generation, Schnittke found these techniques to be unsatisfactory, and so he created his own style which he called polystylism, inspired by Charles Ives, Luciano Berio and Bernd Alois Zimmermann, but also Gustav Mahler,It is characterised by the parodic combinations of styles from different periods, by some recognised as postmodernism.