This is the fourth volume in NEOS's 'Weinberg Retrospective',
recorded at the Bregenz Festival in 2010 (see below for reviews
of other releases in this series). The centrepiece of the festival
was the premiere staging of Weinberg's opera and magnum opus
Die Passagierin ('The Passenger') - see review of the
DVD recording of Die Passagierin here.
The absurdity of Weinberg's neglect in Western Europe - something
which growing discographies on Chandos, CPO, Naxos, Toccata
and NEOS are only just beginning to correct, at least as far
as domestic listening is concerned - is underlined by his Piano
Quintet, surely as brilliant and memorable a work as any written
in the genre. A recording of the Quintet appeared recently on
and within the last decade, both on RCA Red Seal (review)
and in a reissue of possibly the most authoritative account,
given that Weinberg himself was pianist, on Melodiya (review).
No one listening to the Quintet can be surprised at its wartime
provenance, yet there are many pages of presumably ironic light-heartedness
and military eupepsia to balance the returning air of gloom
and introspection. It is virtually impossible not to be reminded
of Shostakovich by Weinberg's music, but that influence is something
Weinberg freely and proudly admitted, with Shostakovich's close
friendship tending "unconsciously [to] inspire [my] compositional
activity." Yet Weinberg's voice is as unique as that of Shostakovich.
The Cello Sonata is more melody-led, and a little more optimistic,
perhaps reflecting the Khrushchev Thaw that had taken place
after Stalin's death - something that led to Weinberg's release
from prison, where he was being held on charges of "Jewish bourgeois
nationalism", and which may even have saved his life.
Most of the performers here also appear on volume 5, and in
both places are uniformly impressive, matching technique with
expressiveness. Sound recording is very good indeed: coughing
and rustling have been kept to a minimum, either by very thoughtfully
positioned microphones or benign audiences. Applause has been
skilfully edited out, the audience again being very helpful
in not having cut into the short silence which rightly belongs
at the end of all works of art music. There is one minor technical
blemish, at least on the review disc: about ten-and-a-half minutes
through the fourth movement of the Quintet, a minor blip that
resembles an editing join.
Housed in an attractively designed digipak case, the CD booklet
is thick. That said, having everything in four languages means
that there is much less information than there appears to be
at first sight. Two sides of biographies match Matthias Corvin's
notes on the works. These are all, nevertheless, well written
and well translated into English.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Reviews of other releases in this series
1 & 2