Chamber music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on RCA

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Chamber music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on RCA

Post by Lance » Wed Nov 08, 2006 5:32 pm

The Holocaust has been a part of our consciousness for many
decades now. That its counterpart coexisted in the Soviety Union,
albeit in embryonic form, is hardly known—had Stalin not died
in 1953, the "Great Leader's" active encouragement of anti-Semitism
might well have led to similar horrors."


Mieczyslaw Weinberg [Moisei Vainberg] (1919-1996)
*Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 28 (1945) [18:41]¹
*Jewish Songs after Shmuel Halkin, Op. 17 (1944) [14:40]²
*Piano Quintet, Op. 18 (1944) [43:22]³
Joaquin Valdenpeñas, clarinet¹
Dianne Werner, piano¹
Richard Margison, tenor²
Dianne Werner, piano²
Erika Raum, violin I³
Marie Bérard, violin II³
Steven Dann, viola³
Bryan Epperson, cello³
David Louie, piano³
Recorded in Toronto, April 2006 and June 2006 (Jewish Songs)
RCA Red Seal 87769, 76:45, DDD


The story of Weinberg's (Vainberg's) life is typical of Jewish life in Russia, simply put, an abomination to humanism. The composer, himself, might not have lived as long as he did (1996) if it wasn't for the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. It was Dmitri Shostakovich who took a personal interest in Weinberg's scores because of actor Solomon Mikhoels' request for Shostakovich to examine Weinberg's scores. (Weinberg married Mikhoels' daughter.) Shostakovich then arranged for Weinberg to settle in Moscow where he lived until his death. Shostakovich believed Weinberg was one of Russia's most eminent composers.

To quote a portion of Per Skane's booklet notes: "After the war, Weinberg expierienced Soviet anti-Semitism at gruesome first hand. His father-in-law Mikhoels was murdered in 1948 by the secret police, and in February 1953, Weinberg himself was arrested. It was only Stalin's timely death a month later that spared him. Both had been accused of Jewish Nationalsim, which was then a political crime. Thankfrully Weinberg went on to enjoy great success: he was considered one of the country's foremost composers, and the finest musicians performed his music. Today, he is slowly but steadily claiming a position of universal significance."

The primary reason for me to acquire this disc was because of the inclusion of Richard Margison, the great Canadian tenor, in one of two song cycles composed by Weinberg during World War II, Jewish Songs after Shmuel Halkin (Galkin). I doubt the cycle of six songs could be rendered better than we have on this recording. Margison was well-trained in delivering the songs in their Yiddish text combined with a powerful and expressive voice. The songs are entitled (in translation): To the Red Soldiers; The Mother; New Year's Song; To the Beloved; Deep Pits, Crimson Clay; and To the Warrior. One pull quote from the notes states: "The tragedies of war and Jewish suffering are recurring themes in Weinberg's works and they are central to this vocal cycle."

The first song is a cry to the Red Army; the second tells of a mother's thoughts as she waits for letters from her five sons, all serving on the front; then follows an atmospheric depiction of a dreadful New Year's Eve; the fourth song describes a soldier who is about to leave his lover. The fifth song depicts the massacre at Babi Yar, and finally, in the last song, a mother, sister and girlfriend express their pride in the heroes who are defending the Motherland. Write Skans advises that while Weinberg does not quote directly from folk music originations, the musical idiom is unmistakably Jewish. The fourth song, to one musicologist, is reminiscent of the second theme of the final movement of Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2, which appears to more than mere coincidence.

The Piano Quintet was given its first performance in Moscow in 1945 with pianist Emil Gilels and the Bolshoi Theatre Quartet and has the distinction of including two scherzo movements. It is supremely well played by all the artists with exceptional sound and balances.

The opening work on the disc, the Clarinet Sonata from 1945, was given its first performance in Moscow at the Conservatory on April 20, 1946 with V. Getman, clarinet, and the composer at the piano. The clarinet in Russia wasn't prominent at this time. Where it was heard frequently was in Klezmer music, which, quite possibly, Weinberg may have heard in his father's theatre.

This is all eminently listenable music with harmonic and rhythmic colors that were prevelant in Europe at the time. Modern, yes, but still with deep expression and conviction, feelings that were deep within the composer's tragic soul and allowed to be shown through Weinberg's music.

Those interested in learning more about Weinberg (Vainberg) would do well to check out this web site:
Lance G. Hill

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]


Posts: 79
Joined: Sat Jun 28, 2003 8:08 am
Location: Springfield MA

Post by Alberich » Thu Nov 09, 2006 8:43 am

It never ceases to astound me that this man's
music has any glimmer of hope residing in it.
Besides the horrors that he suffered under the Soviet
Regime, what the above post does not mention is
that Weinberg's (Vainberg's) entire family was trapped indoors and
burned to death by the Nazis.

And yet he offers us the other cheek and many of his
symphonies have optimistic conclusions - leaving us to
contemplate humanity's ability to survive. Our petty
misfortunes pale next to those encountered by Weinberg but he
embarrasses us by not succumbing and his spirit speaks across the
years and encourages us to look for the sliver lining.

Sure there is present in
his music angst and frustration and a railing against God and a question:
Why? But I prefer to listen to Weinberg's inner self which
shows through the notes: I can do it; I can make it; I can
overcome anything.

The Piano Quintet is a magnificent work.
But Weinberg's real soul is exposed in his Symphonies.
Listen to them. They will affect you as few others can.

Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Nov 01, 2006 8:10 pm

Post by rasputin » Thu Nov 09, 2006 9:57 am

I've (and recommend):
SQ 12 and piano quintet; Olympia 474
Sonatas for solo cello No.2,3 and 4; 0lympia 643
Children's notebooks 1-3 for piano and piano trio; Olympia 581
SQ 1,10 and 17; 0lympia 628


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