the ambiguity and vagueness of Weinberg’s music

  • Jean-Pierre Robert
  • Music

This new music album from Mieczyslaw Weinberg presented Symphonies Nos 3 & 7 as well as his First Flute Concerto, works composed between 1950 and 1964. These were performed by Mirga Gražinytè-Tyla, the conductor who has established himself as the champion of this single idiom in the Russian environment, is not far from Shostakovich.

That Symphony No. 3 for a large orchestra op.45 was compiled between 1945 and 1950, then revised in 1959. And started on difficult times due to recommendations from the Soviet regime on “music accessible to all”, which Weinberg refused to comply with. What was he going to do in spite of everything with the revisions done a few years later. It is part of a tonal universe and was written for a great symphony orchestra. Building on elegiac melodies from the essence of folklore entrusted to woodwinds, the early Allegro delivered a variety of folk songs including Belarusian distributed to strings. The language is admittedly easy on the masses treatment with repetitive brass-enhanced chords, a terrific climax neighboring the lyrical range. Allegro giocoso, a kind of cheerful scherzo, borrows from Polish folklore, oboe babbling with a touch of humor. The adagio, which gives deep lyrics to the strings, builds into a bold climax, returning to a kind of contemplation lulled by the clarinet, before fading away. The work ends with a recapitulation of Allegro vivace, contrasting in dynamics and rhythmic multiplication, as in the master and friend of Shostakovich. Several solo interventions, including a violin I, and a culture of cantankerousness lead to a return to the symphony’s early themes.

that Concerto for flute and orchestra No. 1 op.75 is from 1961, the longer period

comfortable for Weinberg. His three movements combine light and silent sonority, always one of extreme sonic refinement. So with a cheerful Allegro the flute braided its share above the orchestra consisting only of strings. It dances with a slight ostinato. Largo is a place of gentle melodies of soloists. The final Comodo Allegro gently brings the flute into dialogue with the strings in waltz rhythms and the pp spectrum, which swells little by little to establish itself in a joyful mood.

Score for string orchestra and harpsichord, that is Symphony No. 7 op.81, from 1964, caused by the friendship between Weinberg and Rudolf Barshai, founder of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. It is designed like a baroque concerto grosso to be immersed in a modern context. And will be praised its non-simplicity “. The five movements played without interruption spread the original dialogue between the strings and the harpsichord, in alternating melancholic passages and emphasized rhythm. It opens with an Adagio and a theme from an earlier work, a song cycle from 1951, composed by a harpsichord solo. Followed by Allegro , first light then motor, which ends with a brief cadenza of the harpsichord. Andante, the centerpiece of the piece, offers a Jewish folk theme distinctly from Weinberg’s language. A new meaty contrasting adagio, not without string dissonance, is followed by a darker section. Allegro the latter makes use of candid humor in the way it treats the harpsichord and especially the strings, recalling the hidden but humorous ringing of a telephone. Worth the irony of “Shostakovich”. The harpsichord, who is silent, reappears, first solo, then conversing with the strings whose various tables are skilfully worked down to double bass.Then it will be only mechanical ostinatos and pauses rhythmic. The final rhythm of the harpsichord ends the peaceful coda. Is Weinberg cultivating ambiguity here or is he not trying to eliminate all ambiguity. That’s the question. In any case, this symphony does not leave indifferent.

Especially when interpreted with the confidence and care for precision that Mirga Gražinyté-Tyla, conducting the German Chamber Orchestra in Bremen, brings here, as does her Birmingham City Orchestra for the other two pieces in the program. We enjoyed the high instrumental quality of this formation, particularly the British orchestra blow and flutist Marie-Christine Zupancic. Pianist Kyrill Gerstein brilliantly traded his instrument for a slimmer but no less sonorous harpsichord.

The sound recording is matched to the piece: the atmosphere is wide and airy for Symphony No. 7 (recorded at the Konzerthaus in Dortmund) and 3rd (at Symphony Hall in Birmingham), are closer in the case of the flute concerto (Birmingham).

Text by Jean-Pierre Robert

Further information

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City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Mirga Gražinytè-Tyla, Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Kyrill Gerstein, Marie-Christine Zupancic, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

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