Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Requiem for soprano, boys’ choir, chorus and orchestra,
op. 96 (1965-1967)
Elena Kelessidi (soprano); Wiener Sängerknaben/Gerald Wirth; Prague Philharmonic
Choir/Lukáš Vasilek; Wiener Symphoniker/Vladimir Fedoseyev
rec. live, 1 Aug 2010, Festspielhaus, Bregenz, Germany. DDD
Weinberg Edition Vol. 3
NEOS SACD 11127 [60:46]
With the first two volumes of Neos’s Weinberg Edition already issued (see
three more appear this month. I am hoping that colleague reviewers will tackle
the chamber volumes but I could not resist hearing this masterfully varied and
typically poignant Requiem from the mid-1960s.
Weinberg’s layout follows the anthologising pattern adopted by Britten
and Shostakovich. It’s a secular Requiem with - as expected - no Latin
 Bread and Iron (Dmitri Kedrin) [2:59]
 And Then … (Federico García Lorca) [5:01]
 There will Come Soft Rains (Sara Teasdale) [15:15]
 Hiroshima Five-Line Stanzas (Munetoshi Fukagawa) [21:47]
 People Walked … (Federico García Lorca) [5:14]
 Sow the Seed (Mikhail Dudin) [10:29]
The Bread and Iron movement is typified by belligerent drums and the
wailing female choir. After this comes the first of two Lorca-based settings.
And Then … starts with the incessantly anxious chiming of harpsichord
and celesta over which the men and women of the choir sing Lorca's words. The
harpsichord is very prominently balanced and might remind you of the radio telescope
music from Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still. The use of this
most fragile and intimate of instruments carries over into There will Come
Soft Rains where again it is used to lace the atmosphere with urgency. The
rapid striding tempo of the strings suggests William Schuman and a sort of brutalised
and trembling distress. Defying its title this movement imparts neither peace
or remission. Hiroshima Five-Line Stanzas makes play with flute and vibraphone.
The music does not muse and the middlingly quick and chaffing birdsong is counter-pointed
by soft female singing. At 1.47 we here either a balalaika or a shamisen. The
writing is full of ideas that intrigue and hold the mind's ear. Weinberg’s
use of rhythmic devices of various sorts marks out his music. Penderecki’s
Hiroshima Threnody is referenced through a wailing ululation (at 4:14).
The singing becomes tentative and makes its limping querulous way. At 9.03 there
is a greater intensity of singing and drums fire a cannonade of anger. This
fades into a fatigued and feeble emotionalism. Much of it is quiet with gong
and shamisen sounds providing a fascinating lacework. From this emerges a more
beatific atmosphere from the women and the strings - a sort of Dona Nobis
Pacem of The Cold War. In People Walked Elena Kelessidi is the floridly
volatile petrol-incendiary soprano. She interacts with the pecking and chanting
of the harpsichord and balalaika. This is amounts to a defiant operatic aria
but again takes a gradient towards gravely subdued expressive music. This segues
without seam or gear shift into Sow the Seed. Here the strings digress
and discourse moderato while the words are sung alternately by women and men.
So ends a major discovery from Weinberg’s Soviet Union years - years which
from him delivered suppression and reward.
A masterfully varied and poignant Requiem.