Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Fantasy for Cello and Orchestra &c. (Claves)
This recording almost slipped by unnoticed. It opens with a neither here nor there performance of the first Shostakovich concerto, neither rippled with black comedy the way Slava Rostropovich played it nor invested with loving compassion like the mellifluous Heinrich Schiff. The Berlin-based soloist, Anastasia Kobekina, gives a good account of the piece and the Berne Symphony play well enough under the direction of Kevin John Edusei.
What follows is simply gripping. The 1956 Weinberg Fantasy, of which there appear to be only two extant recordings, has an arresting opening melody and the best atmospherics I can think of outside the moody-blues songbook of Jacques Brel. Looking at the orchestration, I see that Weinberg has thrown in three saxophones, tenor, soprano and bass, and a Sarrusophone, which does exactly what its name suggests. And a Hammond organ, to leave you with a sense of unfulfilled longing.
The middle movements are chirpier but the ending goes back to Adagio for the opening theme, by which point you’ll be reaching for the fifth tissue. I can’t tell you much more about the work since the Claves booklet writes only about the performers and the Internet has yet to catch up on the Weinberg centenary wave. But rest assured that this is an indispensable addition to the cello repertoire and the main theme is one that you’ll think you have known all life long.
I don’t care what happens in the next eight months. This is my record of the year for 2019.