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Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (Moisei VAINBERG) (1919-1996)
String Quartets - Volume 2
String Quartet No.7 Op.59 (1957) [28:10]
String Quartet No.11 Op.89 (1966) [21:26]
String Quartet No.13 Op.118 (1977) [14:07]
Quatuor Danel
rec. October 2006, Cologne, Studio Stolbergstrasse
CPO 777392-2 [64:05]
Experience Classicsonline

The Quatuor Danel continues its assignment to record the complete string quartets of Weinberg for CPO. It’s something they have so far managed with assurance and a complete appreciation of the idioms involved. Volume 2 presents quartets nos. 7, 11 and 13, three works spanning two decades.

No 7 shares a Beethoven Rasumovsky quartet opus number, Op. 59. It was written in 1957. It opens slowly and highly expressively, reminiscent of Shostakovich’s First Quartet perhaps – the name is obviously unavoidable when discussing Weinberg. There are rather formalized klezmer themes in the central movement, and they flicker and fleck the music’s texture, in a way that is mesmerically insistent. The third movement is the longest and it takes us back to the opening before unleashing a powerful set of variations. The writing here is alternately terse and brittle, with an urgent, thrumming galvanising the rhythmic basis of it. But there are also pizzicato and lyrical moments too, at least until the concluding and powerful Adagio section ends it.

Nine years later Weinberg wrote his Eleventh quartet. What impresses here is the sheer clarity of the writing, its rhythmically pointed character and the Shostakovich-influenced sense of colour and thematic writing. It’s in the Allegretto that Weinberg unleashes some remarkable muted passages, fugitive and furtive; totally intriguing. Withdrawn and still the slow movement prefaces the ambiguous quietude of the finale, with its interrogative interplay. This is a fascinating work, brilliantly played.

The Op.118 quartet is the shortest, and is cast in one movement. The vague melancholy of its opening gives way to a demarcated scherzo section around 4:00 in this recording. The strong sawing unison figures are exciting whilst the expressive temperature remains terse. The brittle gestures may be reflective of the fact that Shostakovich had died the previous year. It’s certainly not a threnody, more a brusque, unsettled rejoinder.

The recorded sound in the Cologne studio has been well gauged: it’s not too chilly, but its clarity doesn’t preclude warmth. David Fanning’s notes are excellent.

Jonathan Woolf
















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