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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Weinberg Edition - vol.5
Three Palms, for soprano and string quartet, op.120 (1977) [23:04]
Trio, for violin, viola and cello, op.48 (1950) [15:18]
Trumpet Concerto no.1 in B flat, op.94 (1967) [22:49]
Talia Or (soprano); EOS Quartett Wien; ad hoc trio: (Kana Matsui (violin), Johannes Flieder (viola), Christoph Stradner (cello)); Jürgen Ellensohn (trumpet); Vorarlberg Symphony Orchestra/Gérard Korsten
rec. Seestudio, Bregenz, Austria, 25 July 2010 (Three Palms); 8 August 2010 (Trio); Festspielhaus, Bregenz, 15 August 2010 (Concerto). Live recordings. DDD
NEOS 11129 [61:13]

Experience Classicsonline

This is the fifth volume in NEOS's 'Weinberg Retrospective', recorded at the Bregenz Festival in 2010. The centrepiece of the festival was the premiere staging of Weinberg's opera and magnum opus Die Passagierin ('The Passenger'), but around two dozen other works were also performed. Volumes 1 and 2 are reviewed here, volume 3 here, and the DVD recording of Die Passagierin here. Coincidentally, Chandos recently released the fifth volume in their own superb series, begun in 2003, of Weinberg's complete symphonies - see review.
The compact String Trio makes an excellent entry point for newcomers to Weinberg: its light Shostakovichian idiom should appeal to almost all tastes. Matthias Corvin's suggestion in the notes that Weinberg "succeeds in creating a fiery plea for artistic freedom" seems to read more into the Trio than is there, as is so often the case in Soviet-era musicology: it is more folk-inflected and spirited than fiery.
There is considerable poignancy, indeed tragedy, reflected in the sombre Three Palms, passionately sung by Talia Or. Lermontov's eponymous poem is a harsh Biblical homily that tells of three palm trees in the desert that complain to God about their futility, who responds with typical Old Testament violence, having them chopped down and used as firewood by Bedouins. It is surely no coincidence that Weinberg lost three members of his family - both parents and sister - in a similarly mindless way at a Holocaust death camp. No surprise it was still on his mind more than thirty years later. Despite its lyricism, the music oozes pain and suffering, and ultimately desolation.
Weinberg's alternately witty and nervy Trumpet Concerto in B flat is a hoot, particularly the ironic absurdities of the 'Fanfares' finale. The Concerto does appear occasionally in European concert halls, but nowhere near often enough - this is one of the most memorable since Haydn. The booklet lists it as his Trumpet Concerto no.1, which is certainly true, but he did not write a second one.
There are good performances throughout this programme, but soprano Talia Or and trumpet Jürgen Ellensohn merit a special mention for their contributions: Or for her heartfelt passion and Ellensohn for his almost casual virtuosity and humour.
Sound recording is very good indeed: coughing and rustling has been kept to an absolute minimum either by very thoughtfully positioned microphones or benign audiences - one phlegmy splutter near the beginning of Three Palms being the exception. 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.
Housed in an attractively designed digipak case, the CD booklet is thick, although having everything in four languages means that there is much less information than appears at first sight - most notably, Lermontov's poem has not been included. Nevertheless, the notes are illuminating, well written and well translated into English.
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