MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around

 58,771 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Weinberg cello EPRC0045
Support us financially by purchasing from

Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996)
Cello Concertino Op.43BIS
Fantasy for cello and orchestra Op.52
Chamber symphony No. 4 Op.153
Pieter Wispelwey (cello), Jean-Michel Charlier (clarinet)
Les Métamorphoses/Raphaël Feye
rec. 2021, MC De Bijloke, Ghent, Belgium

The cello is arguably the instrument closest to the human voice. Its case could not be put more eloquently than by Mieczysław Weinberg: the two works for cello on this disc prove this in spades. Superlatives can be and are often overused but are fully justified here. The most gorgeously evocative themes found anywhere here truly wrench at the heartstrings. I find it hard to say which of these two cello works I prefer. It is probably safest to say: whichever I am listening to when asked. I am at odds in this with Daniel Elphick who writes in the booklet notes that the Fantasy, though ‘a delightful piece’ does not plumb the same emotional depths as the Concertino. Perhaps not, but still its beauty is so palpable that such a statement seems somewhat churlish to me.

Both pieces were created at a time of great concern for the composer. The Concertino was written in 1948 when his father-in-law Solomon Mikhoels was murdered on Stalin’s orders and composers were all warned about the kind of content that was and was not acceptable. The Fantasy was composed when things were equally dark and during which time Weinberg himself was arrested and jailed, only to be released after a few months following the intervention by the extremely brave Shostakovich.

The Concertino begins with a truly haunting melody. Its fragile beauty needs careful attention to avoid erring on the side of sentimentality, yet to imbue it with a feeling of controlled melancholy alongside desolation which reveals magnificent emotional core. The second movement, though decisively more upbeat, still retains a hidden depth of sadness; its dance-like episodes are more lamentation than celebration. The Allegro vivace bursts onto the scene with a fast and emphatic theme full of energy. It whirls its way toward the cadenza which segues into the finale. Another Adagio, like the first, reintroduces the main theme from the work’s opening for re-examination and further development. This makes for a nicely rounded feeling of completion. It is extraordinary to read that this was a work that Weinberg never even mentioned in any of his catalogues or documents. It was a chance discovery among the papers of musicologist Manashir Yakubov. I am sure that cellists are more than grateful that such a work finally saw the light of day. Few of tyhem would not relish performing it. To quote the soloist on this recording, Pieter Wispelwey, it was “Absolutely great to play”.

The Fantasy for cello and orchestra took a great deal longer to compose than the remarkably short four days for the Concertino. It occupied Weinberg for more than two years, during which time he had been arrested and jailed. After a short introduction, an equally enthralling and captivating melody makes its appearance. It is soon repeated on the flute soaring above and subjected to development which adds another layer of richness. This single-movement work is divided into five sections, including further development of the theme in a dance-like mode reflecting Weinberg’s Polish origins, and its repetition as an achingly sad episode. The work’s whimsy tinged with sadness makes it an extremely attractive piece. Wispelwey’s description of Weinberg’s music as “Heartbreakingly light, heartbreakingly sad and wounded, sincere and deceptive, mysterious and bold, profound and charming…” is an eloquent summary. Weinberg’s opus is finally getting its rightfully deserved place in the history of Soviet music and more widely in the pantheon of masterworks by 20th century composers.

The Chamber symphony No. 4 from April-May 1992, Weinberg’s last completed work, is full of self-quotation. The opening chorale is a somewhat mysterious and floating melody which gives way to a clarinet theme taken, the notes point out, from his Symphony No. 17. It is klezmer-like, reflecting Weinberg’s penchant for allusions to Jewish music. The second movement fairly leaps in with a frenetic theme which shortly gives way to short solos from clarinet, violin and cello. The clarinet’s theme comes first and is like an urgent call to the rest of the orchestra to follow it who knows where. The violin takes its place and its statement is one of agonising melancholy. This mood is supplemented by the cello as its voice sings out alone to bring the movement to a close. Clarinet and cello together open the slow Adagio which is equally mournful, a mood that Weinberg was particularly adept in reflecting. The strings mirror the feeling with rising passion until a solo episode, this time on the double bass, emerges taking us back to the opening chorale. The clarinet with a klezmer-like melody opens the final section marked Andantino. The tune is not celebratory but reflective, and violins join it to emphasise the mood. Later an oboe is heard briefly piercing the sombreness though not dispelling it. The orchestra together then gently take the movement towards its quiet conclusion. Daniel Elphick writes that the movement contains much self-quotation and that Weinberg was confined to his home while writing the symphony through the illness that would claim his life four years later; even so, there is no firm evidence that he saw this as his last work. While this might very well be true, the work ends with a rather emphatic full stop that is hard not to believe was Weinberg saying his final good bye to the world.

It seems extraordinary that it took so many years for this composer’s music to become more widely known. I cannot now imagine a world in which his works do not play a major role in my enjoyment of music. He has become a huge influence and I rate him more highly with each passing year. If you are yet to be introduced to this composer, I envy you for the discoveries you will make that I am sure you will find as revelatory as I did.

The orchestra, Les Métamorphoses, play this music with due reverence and the soloists are exemplary in their playing. Pieter Wispelwey is particularly convincing in the two cello works, and conductor Raphaël Feye brings out the best in his players. The sound is perfectly balanced and the entire disc is a true joy from start to finish.

Steve Arloff
Previous reviews: Néstor Castiglione ~ Michael Cookson

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount