Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Mieczyslaw Weinberg

Mieczyslaw Weinberg

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Mieczyslaw Weinberg'
Start a new discussion about 'Mieczyslaw Weinberg'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia

Mieczysław Weinberg was a Soviet composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 of Polish
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

-Jewish origin.
From 1939 he lived in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and lost most of his family in the Holocaust.

He left a large body of work that included twenty-two symphonies
Symphony
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...

 and seventeen string quartet
String quartet
A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players – usually two violin players, a violist and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group...

s; according to one reviewer he ranked as, "the third great Soviet composer, along with Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

 and Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

".

Names


Much confusion has been caused by different renditions of the composer's names. In the Polish language (i.e. prior to his move to the USSR), his name was spelled as 'Mieczysław Wajnberg' whereas in the Russian language
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 (i.e. after the move) he was and still is known as 'Моисей Самуилович Вайнберг' (Moisey Samuilovich Vaynberg). In the world of Yiddish theater of antebellum Warsaw he was known as Moishe Weinberg , which is analogous to the Russian Moisey. Among close friends he would also go by his Polish diminutive 'Mietek'. Re-transliteration
Transliteration
Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...

 of his surname from the Cyrillic alphabet
Cyrillic alphabet
The Cyrillic script or azbuka is an alphabetic writing system developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School...

 (Вайнберг) back into the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 produced a variety of spellings, including 'Weinberg', 'Vainberg', and 'Vaynberg'. The form 'Weinberg' is now being increasingly used as the most frequent English-language rendition of this common Jewish surname, notably in the latest edition of Grove
Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is an encyclopedic dictionary of music and musicians. Along with the German-language Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, it is the largest single reference work on Western music. The dictionary has gone through several editions since the 19th century...

 and by Weinberg's biographer, Per Skans.

Life


Weinberg was born in 1919 to a Jewish family in Warsaw. His father, Shmil (Szmuel or Samuil Moiseyevich) Weinberg (1882–1943, Russian), a well-known conductor and composer of the Yiddish theater, moved to Warsaw from Kishinev
Chisinau
Chișinău is the capital and largest municipality of Moldova. It is also its main industrial and commercial centre and is located in the middle of the country, on the river Bîc...

 in 1916 and worked as a violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

ist and conductor for the Yiddish theatre
Yiddish theatre
Yiddish theatre consists of plays written and performed primarily by Jews in Yiddish, the language of the Central European Ashkenazi Jewish community. The range of Yiddish theatre is broad: operetta, musical comedy, and satiric or nostalgic revues; melodrama; naturalist drama; expressionist and...

 Scala in Warsaw, where the future composer joined him as pianist at the age of 10 and later as a musical director of several performances. His mother, Sonia Wajnberg (née Karl, 1888–1943), was an actress in several Yiddish theater companies in Warsaw and Lodz. The family had already been the victim of anti-semitic violence in Bessarabia
Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

— some members of his family were killed during the Kishinev pogrom
Kishinev pogrom
The Kishinev pogrom was an anti-Jewish riot that took place in Chişinău, then the capital of the Bessarabia province of the Russian Empire on April 6-7, 1903.-First pogrom:...

. One of composer's cousins (a son of his father's sister Khaya Vaynberg) - Isay Abramovich Mishne - was the secretary of the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Baku
Baku
Baku , sometimes spelled as Baki or Bakou, is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. It is located on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, which projects into the Caspian Sea. The city consists of two principal...

 Soviet commune and was executed in 1918 along with the other 26 Baku Commissars
26 Baku Commissars
The 26 Baku Commissars were Bolshevik and Left Socialist Revolutionary members of the Baku Soviet Commune. The commune was established in the city of Baku...

.

Weinberg entered the Warsaw Conservatory, studying piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

, at the age of twelve, and graduated in 1939. Two works (his first string quartet and a berceuse for piano) were composed before he fled to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 at the outbreak
Outbreak
Outbreak is a term used in epidemiology to describe an occurrence of disease greater than would otherwise be expected at a particular time and place. It may affect a small and localized group or impact upon thousands of people across an entire continent. Two linked cases of a rare infectious...

 of war. His parents and sister Esther remained behind, were interned at the Lodz ghetto and perished in the Trawniki concentration camp
Trawniki concentration camp
Trawniki concentration camp, in the village of Trawniki about 40 km southeast of Lublin in Poland, was an SS labour camp which provided forced labourers for a nearby industrial plant to work in appalling conditions with little food...

. He settled in Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

, where he studied composition for the first time at the Conservatory there. At the outbreak of the World War II on the Soviet territory, Weinberg was evacuated to Tashkent
Tashkent
Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan and of the Tashkent Province. The officially registered population of the city in 2008 was about 2.2 million. Unofficial sources estimate the actual population may be as much as 4.45 million.-Early Islamic History:...

 (Central Asia), where he wrote works for the opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

, as well as met and married Solomon Mikhoels
Solomon Mikhoels
Solomon Mikhoels ; was a Soviet Jewish actor and the artistic director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater. Mikhoels served as the chairman of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee during the Second World War...

' daughter Natalia Vovsi. There he also met Dmitry Shostakovich who was impressed by his talent and became his close friend. Meeting Shostakovich had a profound effect on the younger man, who said later that, "It was as if I had been born anew".
In 1943 he moved to Moscow at Shostakovich's urging.

Weinberg's works were not banned during the Zhdanovshchina of 1948, but he was almost entirely ignored by the Soviet musical establishment; for a time he could make a living only by composing for the theatre and circus. In February 1953, he himself was arrested on charges of "Jewish bourgeois nationalism
Bourgeois nationalism
Bourgeois nationalism is a term from Marxist phraseology. It refers to the alleged practice by the ruling classes of deliberately dividing people by nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion, so as to distract them from possible class warfare...

" in relation to the arrest of his father-in-law as a part of the so-called "Doctors' plot
Doctors' plot
The Doctors' plot was the most dramatic anti-Jewish episode in the Soviet Union during Joseph Stalin's regime, involving the "unmasking" of a group of prominent Moscow doctors, predominantly Jews, as conspiratorial assassins of Soviet leaders...

": Shostakovich wrote to Lavrenti Beria to intercede on Weinberg's behalf, as well as agreeing to look after Weinberg's daughter if his wife wеre also arrested. In the event, he was saved by Stalin's death the following month, and he was officially rehabilitated shortly afterwards.

Thereafter Weinberg continued to live in Moscow, composing and performing as a pianist. He and Shostakovich lived near to one another, sharing ideas on a daily basis. Besides the admiration which Shostakovich frequently expressed for Weinberg's works, they were taken up by some of Russia's foremost performers, including Emil Gilels
Emil Gilels
Emil Grigoryevich Gilels was a Soviet pianist, widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.His last name is sometimes transliterated Hilels.-Biography:...

, Leonid Kogan, Mstislav Rostropovich
Mstislav Rostropovich
Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich, KBE , known to close friends as Slava, was a Soviet and Russian cellist and conductor. He was married to the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya. He is widely considered to have been the greatest cellist of the second half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest of...

, Kurt Sanderling
Kurt Sanderling
Kurt Sanderling, CBE was a German conductor.-Biography:Kurt Sanderling was born in Arys, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire to Jewish parents. After early work at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, he left for the Soviet Union in 1936, where he worked with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra...

, and Kirill Kondrashin.

Towards the end of his life, Weinberg suffered from Crohn's disease
Crohn's disease
Crohn's disease, also known as regional enteritis, is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus, causing a wide variety of symptoms...

 and remained housebound for the last three years, although he continued to compose. He reportedly converted to Orthodox Christianity
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 less than two months before his death (on January 3, 1996).

Ten years after his death a concert premiere of his opera The Passenger
The Passenger (opera)
The Passenger, in Russian Passazhirka, is an opera by Mieczysław Weinberg to a libretto by Alexander Medvedev .The libretto is based on the Polish radio play Passenger from Cabin Number 45 by concentration camp survivor Zofia Posmysz. Zofia Posmysz's play was already the basis for Andrzej Munk's...

in Moscow sparked a posthumous revival. The British director David Pountney staged the opera at the 2010 Bregenz Festival and restaged it at English National Opera the following year, earning considerable acclaim while dividing critical opinion on the quality of the music and its suitability to the subject .

Works


Weinberg's output includes twenty-two symphonies
Symphony
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...

, other works for orchestra (including chamber symphonies and sinfoniettas), seventeen string quartet
String quartet
A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players – usually two violin players, a violist and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group...

s, eight violin sonata
Violin sonata
A violin sonata is a musical composition for violin, which is nearly always accompanied by a piano or other keyboard instrument, or by figured bass in the Baroque period.-A:*Ella Adayevskaya**Sonata Greca for Violin or Clarinet and Piano...

s (three solo and five with piano), twenty-four preludes for cello and six cello sonata
Cello sonata
A cello sonata is usually a sonata written for cello and piano, though other instrumentations are used, such as solo cello. The most famous Romantic-era cellos sonatas are those written by Johannes Brahms and Ludwig van Beethoven...

s (two with piano and four solo), six piano sonata
Piano sonata
A piano sonata is a sonata written for a solo piano. Piano sonatas are usually written in three or four movements, although some piano sonatas have been written with a single movement , two movements , five or even more movements...

s, numerous other instrumental works, as well as more than 40 film and animation scores (including The Cranes are Flying
The Cranes are Flying
The Cranes Are Flying is a Soviet film about World War II. It depicts the cruelty of war and the damage suffered to the Soviet psyche as a result of World War II . It was directed at Mosfilm by the Georgian-born Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov in 1957 and stars Aleksey Batalov and Tatiana...

, Palme d'Or
Palme d'Or
The Palme d'Or is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival and is presented to the director of the best feature film of the official competition. It was introduced in 1955 by the organising committee. From 1939 to 1954, the highest prize was the Grand Prix du Festival International du...

 at the Cannes Film Festival, 1958). He wrote seven opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

s, and considered one of them, The Passenger (Passazhirka)
The Passenger (opera)
The Passenger, in Russian Passazhirka, is an opera by Mieczysław Weinberg to a libretto by Alexander Medvedev .The libretto is based on the Polish radio play Passenger from Cabin Number 45 by concentration camp survivor Zofia Posmysz. Zofia Posmysz's play was already the basis for Andrzej Munk's...

(written in 1967-68, premiered in 2006), to be his most important work. His piano quintet
Piano quintet
In European classical music, a piano quintet is a work of chamber music written for piano and four other instruments, most commonly piano, two violins, viola, and cello . Among the most frequently performed piano quintets are those by Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, César Franck, Antonín Dvořák...

, piano trio
Piano trio
A piano trio is a group of piano and two other instruments, usually a violin and a cello, or a piece of music written for such a group. It is one of the most common forms found in classical chamber music...

 and cello works have received performances in concert series and festivals across Europe and the USA in recent years, and the British record label Olympia has released over fifteen compact disc recordings of his music, consisting of both original recordings and remasterings of earlier Melodiya LPs.

Weinberg's works frequently have a strong programmatic
Program music
Program music or programme music is a type of art music that attempts to musically render an extra-musical narrative. The narrative itself might be offered to the audience in the form of program notes, inviting imaginative correlations with the music...

 element: throughout his life he continually referred back to his formative years in Warsaw and to the war which ended that earlier life. Typically, however, this darkness serves as a background to the finding of peace through catharsis
Catharsis
Catharsis or katharsis is a Greek word meaning "cleansing" or "purging". It is derived from the verb καθαίρειν, kathairein, "to purify, purge," and it is related to the adjective καθαρός, katharos, "pure or clean."-Dramatic uses:...

. This desire for harmony is also evident in his musical style; Lyudmilla Nikitina emphasises the "neo-classical
Neoclassicism (music)
Neoclassicism in music was a twentieth-century trend, particularly current in the period between the two World Wars, in which composers sought to return to aesthetic precepts associated with the broadly defined concept of "classicism", namely order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotional restraint...

, rationalist clarity and proportion" of his works.

Although he never formally studied with Shostakovich, the older composer had an obvious influence on Weinberg's music. This is particularly noticeable in his 12th Symphony (1975–1976, Op.114)), which is dedicated to the composer's memory. Explicit connections include the pianissimo passage with celesta
Celesta
The celesta or celeste is a struck idiophone operated by a keyboard. Its appearance is similar to that of an upright piano or of a large wooden music box . The keys are connected to hammers which strike a graduated set of metal plates suspended over wooden resonators...

 which ends the Fifth Symphony (1962, Op.76), reminiscent of Shostakovich's Fourth
Symphony No. 4 (Shostakovich)
Dmitri Shostakovich composed his Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Opus 43, between September 1935 and May 1936, after abandoning some preliminary sketch material...

 and written around the time of that work's premiere. Another Weinberg work, his sixth piano sonata (1960, Op.73), quotes one of the Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues
24 Preludes and Fugues (Shostakovich)
The 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87 by Dmitri Shostakovich is a set of 24 piano pieces, one in each of the major and minor keys of the chromatic scale. While the musical style and ideas are Shostakovich's own, it follows the form of Frederic Chopin's Op. 28 preludes.Each piece is in two parts: a...

. More general similarities in musical language include the use of extended melodies, repetitive themes and extreme register
Register (music)
In music, a register is the relative "height" or range of a note, set of pitches or pitch classes, melody, part, instrument or group of instruments...

s. This has been one of the main criticisms voiced of Weinberg: Alexander Ivashkin has argued that composers such as Weinberg damaged not only their reputations, but also that of Shostakovich himself: "these works only served to kill off Shostakovich's music, to cover it over with a scab of numerous and bad copies".

Nevertheless, Shostakovich was not the only influence on Weinberg's style. Nikitina identifies Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

, Myaskovsky
Nikolai Myaskovsky
Nikolai Yakovlevich Myaskovsky was a Russian and Soviet composer. He is sometimes referred to as the "father of the Soviet symphony".-Early years and first important works:...

, Bartók
Béla Bartók
Béla Viktor János Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Liszt, as Hungary's greatest composer...

 and Mahler
Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště in the Czech Republic...

 as other influences, while the trumpet concerto quotes Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

's well-known Wedding March. Ethnic influences include not only Jewish music
Jewish music
Jewish music is the music and melodies of the Jewish People which have evolved over time throughout the long course of Jewish History. In some instances Jewish Music is of a religious nature, spiritual songs and refrains are common in Jewish Services throughout the world, while other times, it is...

, but also Moldavian, Polish, Uzbek, and Armenian elements. Weinberg has been identified by some critics as the source of Shostakovich's own increased interest in Jewish themes.

Selected recordings

  • Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op.10 1942, Symphony for string orchestra & harpsichord No. 7 in C major, Op. 81 1964. Cond. GSO Thord Svedlund Chandos.
  • Sonata For Clarinet & Piano.1945 Joaquin Valdepenas (Clarinet). Dianne Werner (Piano); Jewish Songs after Shmuel Halkin (1897–1960), for voice & piano, Op. 17 1944 Richard Margison (tenor), Dianne Werner (Piano); Quintet 1944 ARC Ensemble. 2006

Complete editions
  • Complete string quartets Vol.1-5 Quatuor Danel. cpo. 2008-2011
  • Complete songs Vol.1 Olga Kalugina (soprano) and Svetlana Nikolayeva (mezzo soprano). Dmitri Korostelyov (piano) Toccata Classics
    Toccata Classics
    Toccata Classics is an independent British classic music label founded in 2005.The founder of Toccata Classics is Martin Anderson, a music journalist. The label was founded primarily to promote unrecorded works by lesser-known composers, including British composers...

    .

Video
  • Opera The Passenger (opera)
    The Passenger (opera)
    The Passenger, in Russian Passazhirka, is an opera by Mieczysław Weinberg to a libretto by Alexander Medvedev .The libretto is based on the Polish radio play Passenger from Cabin Number 45 by concentration camp survivor Zofia Posmysz. Zofia Posmysz's play was already the basis for Andrzej Munk's...

    sung in German, Polish and Yiddish. Michelle Breedt, Elena Kelessidi, Roberto Sacca, Prague Philharmonic Choir, Vienna Symphony Orchestra
    Vienna Symphony Orchestra
    -History:In 1900, Ferdinand Löwe founded the orchestra as the Wiener Concertverein . In 1913 it moved into the Konzerthaus, Vienna. In 1919 it merged with the Tonkünstler Orchestra. In 1933 it acquired its current name...

     cond. Teodor Currentzis dir. David Pountney
    David Pountney
    David Pountney is a British theatre and opera director and librettist internationally known for his productions of rarely performed operas and new productions of classic works...

     at the Bregenzer Festspiele
    Bregenzer Festspiele
    Bregenzer Festspiele is a performing arts festival which is held every July and August in Bregenz, Austria.Founded in 1946, the festival presents a wide variety of musical and theatrical events in several venues:...

    2010.(Non-DVD compatible Blu-ray)

External links