WEINBERG (1919-1996) On the threshold of hope
Clarinet Sonata op. 28 (1945) [18:41]
Jewish Songs after Shmuel Halkin op. 17 (1944) [14:40]
Piano Quintet op. 18 (1944) [43:22]
Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet); Dianne
Werner (piano); Richard Margison (tenor); Erika Raum
(violin I); Marie Bérard (violin II); Steven Dann (viola);
Bryan Epperson (cello); David Louie (piano)).
rec. Toronto Centre for the Arts, 14, 16 April 2006 (opp.
18, 28); Willowdale United Church, Toronto, 12 June 2006
(op. 17). DDD RCA/BMG RED SEAL
828768 77692 [74:43]
(aka Vainberg) was a Russian Jew of Moldovan extraction.
He enjoyed, then endured, the various phases through
which Soviet Jewry lived in Soviet Russia. The clouds
only parted - and just in time too - on the death of
Stalin in 1953. A favoured pupil of Shostakovich, Weinberg
benefited from the comparatively lavish life of a celebrity
composer in Moscow and this continued after Shostakovich's
death in 1975.
works being played here date from the years after Hitler's
Operation Barbarossa - the Nazi invasion of the USSR
in 1941. Safety beckoned in the Soviet capital although
Weinberg's fortunes remained fragile until 1953.
Sonata is a comparatively untroubled melodic work. It
seems in the first movement to depict a happy home-life
with only the occasional dark intimation. The clarinet's
line coincides with passages in the Finzi Clarinet Concerto.
The second movement has the character of a saunter around
a city in the cool of the evening. There are occasional
pauses for a klezmer soliloquy as at 3:12. Typically
for Weinberg the last movement is a melancholically pensive Adagio that
resonates with tragic power and protest. The piano part
carries a particularly memorable strummed ostinato effect.
six songs Richard Margison is something of a heldentenor
with baritonal overtones. The songs range from ringing
hysterical exhortation to a much lighter cantilena as
in Di muter. Margison's enunciation is crystal
clear. These songs have an heroic pressure behind them
but the melodic caste places them squarely in the Schubertian
Quintet - in five movements - is a major work in every
sense. Rather like the Galynin piano works heard recently
on Toccata the piano part has the song-line of Shostakovich
in the Second Piano Concerto. This impression returns
in the keyboard torrents of the Presto (III) although
leavened by a disorientating and refracted flavour of
cafe culture. The string quartet parts are more resolute
and rhetorical reflecting the shuddering and tragic manner
of the times. March figures flit in and out, clouds scud
across the horizon, and a troubled equipoise is secured
out only after grief. That Schubertian foundation can
be heard again throughout this work although it has had
infused into it large draughts of tragic discord and
haunting fear. This is a far tougher, more knowing and
adult work than the other two. The music is blown hither
and thither by the hot winds of war. The Presto (III) ends
with a raspingly exciting thunder of notes and slashing
double flourish from piano and quartet. Shostakovich
amid the T34s and Katyushas sounds out in the powerful
stirring Largo (IV) although the Schubertian wistfulness
returns for the central piano-led heart of the movement
even if the piano line is clearly a slowed fanfare. This
movement is unsurprisingly the heart of the piece in
much the same manner as equivalent movements provide
the rooted core of the Shostakovich wartime symphonies.
The Allegro agitato starts in an abrupt, incessant-obsessive
insistence. This soon falls away into a classically dancing
reminiscence of happy days. This is soon fractured and
collaged and the shards are moved in a kaleidoscope of
reminiscence and fantasy. The work ends in a chipping
and stuttering interplay from piano and violin fading
into silence; no circus finale here. The quintet was
premiered by Emil Gilels in Moscow in 1944.
add that Dianne Werner is the pianist in the first two
works and David Louie in the last. The liner-notes are
by the late Per Skans. The words of the songs are printed
legibly in the booklet in both the sung Yiddish and in
parallel English translation.
has the confident air of a masterpiece of beauty, torment
and tragedy. However all three pieces are deeply sincere,
accomplished and memorable.
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