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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | A Cure For A Month Without Weinberg

By Norman Lebrecht on August 21, 2020

Raphael Wallfisch (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)
Raphael Wallfisch (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Works for Cello & Orchestra (CPO)

★★★★☆

🎧  Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon

There are certain composers whom I need to hear on a regular basis or I suffer withdrawal pangs. Not Mahler, who is so well lodged in memory that I can call any theme to mind without effort. Nor Beethoven, who I’m living with all year after breakfast. But definitely Shostakovich, and not far behind his close friend Weinberg. If I go a month without their company, I feel the loss.

Weinberg (1919-96), a Polish-Jewish refugee in Stalin’s Russia, was fortunate to survive the 1948 purge in which his father-in-law was murdered. He wrote the cello concerto in 1956 during the thaw of Khrushchev’s Stalin denunciation and had it premiered by Mstislav Rostropovich, Russia’s foremost cellist. It’s a folkloric work rippled with Jewish themes and a second movement that anticipates Fiddler on the Roof. In the thick of Soviet antisemitism, Weinberg shouted out his Jewishness.

The British cellist Raphael Wallfisch plays the concerto with big-toned empathy, engagingly interwoven with the Kristiansand Symphony, conductor Lukas Borowicz. The major discovery on this album is a concertino for cello and orchestra which Weinberg wrote in 1948 and had to withdraw for fear of Stalinist retribution. Unheard until 2017, it’s a quiet meditation on overtly Jewish tunes from a culture recently ravaged by Hitler and now persecuted by Stalin. Familiar as I am with the cello concerto, I’m inclined to think that the concertino is a stronger statement — more poignant, more gripping, more musical. Love Weinberg.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

Norman Lebrecht’s new book Genius and Anxiety is available now.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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