MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews

 Clicking Google advertisements helps keep MusicWeb subscription-free.

Error processing SSI file

Other Links

Editorial Board

  • Editor - Bill Kenny

Founder - Len Mullenger

Google Site Search


Internet MusicWeb




"A Pole Apart": Music of Mieczysław  Weinberg: ARC Ensemble, Edmond J. Safra Hall, Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York City, 11.11.2008 (BH) 

Mieczysław Weinberg: Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 28 (1945)
Mieczysław Weinberg: From Zhukovsky’s Lyrics, Op. 116 (1976, U.S. Premiere)
Mieczysław Weinberg: Piano Quintet, Op. 18 (1944)

ARC Ensemble
Joaquin Valdepe
ñas, clarinet
Dianne Werner, piano
Robert Pomakov, bass
Benjamin Bowman, violin
Marie Bérard, violin
Steven Dann, viola
Bryan Epperson, cello
David Louis, piano

Born in Warsaw in 1919, composer
Mieczysław Weinberg escaped the fate of many of his countrymen during World War II.  Ultimately Shostakovich urged him to settle in Moscow, where Weinberg lived from 1943 until his death in 1996.  This indispensable concert, part of Music in Exile: Émigré Composers of the 1930s at the Edmond J. Safra Hall, showed a hefty glimpse of the composer's remarkable output.  And the excellent ARC Ensemble (i.e., Artists of the Royal Conservatory, in Toronto), made a strong case for raising Weinberg's public awareness to a level commensurate with his achievements.

An invigorating addition to the repertory, the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano is in the same universe as Shostakovich yet with surprisingly less angst.  Its structure is mildly unorthodox: two fast movements followed by an Adagio.  Joaquin Valdepe
ñas played the clarinet role with fascinating confidence, acknowledging the slight melancholy beneath the sonata's gleaming surface, with Dianne Werner his alert accompanist.

The concert vaulted forward 31 years with From Zhukovsky's Lyrics, a song cycle for bass and piano, with a distinct nod to Russian Romanticism.  The texts are by Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky (1783-1852), a poet who first gained fame at age 19 when he translated Thomas Grey's Elegy to a Country Churchyard.  Weinberg set Zhukovsky's words gracefully, with flowing lyricism in the vocal line against transparent piano writing.  Bass Robert Pomakov, with Ms. Werner at the piano, gave these gems a dark glow with a voice almost too large for the space.

But the find of the evening was the Piano Quintet, written one year earlier than the Clarinet Sonata.  It is a 40-minute journey, covering a wide tract of moods from sorrow to parody; it can be harrowingly quiet one minute, then bracingly rhythmic the next.  A central Largo, the longest of the five movements, feels like a powerful homage to those lost in the war, and the wild Finale incorporates what sounds like a Scottish folk dance.  No less than Emil Gilels and the Bolshoi Theatre Quartet gave the premiere.

The ARC musicians have lived with this music awhile (their recording of it was nominated for a Grammy Award ™ in 2007), and their dedication came through in this crystalline performance, never losing focus or intensity.  Mentioning the players by name seems inadequate, but nevertheless: Benjamin Bowman and Marie Bérard (violins), Steven Dann (viola), Bryan Epperson (cello) and
David Louis (piano).  It is one thing to hear a concert; it is another to leave enlightened.  At the serene close of this evening, I knew I had inadvertently bumped into greatness.

Bruce Hodges

Back to Top                                                    Cumulative Index Page