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 review) 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 texts:-
[1] Bread and Iron (Dmitri Kedrin) [2:59]
[2] And Then … (Federico García Lorca) [5:01]
[3] There will Come Soft Rains (Sara Teasdale) [15:15]
[4] Hiroshima Five-Line Stanzas (Munetoshi Fukagawa) [21:47]
[5] People Walked … (Federico García Lorca) [5:14]
[6] 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.  

Rob Barnett 

A masterfully varied and poignant Requiem