BBC’s Composer of the Week is the one the world forgot

When I first wrote about him in my Companion to 20th Century Music back in 1991, he was so little known that there was no standard spelling of either of his names. I called him Moisei Vainberg. Nowadays his name is more commonly transcribed as Miecyslaw Weinberg, but he remains a mystery to most music lovers despite a slowly rising tide of recognition.

A Polish refugee from the Nazis, Weinberg (1919-1996) was the composer closest to Shostakovich, in both friendship and style. Each would give the other first sight of their new scores. The trust between them was rare in Soviet Russia.

Weinberg’s opera The Passenger has been staged in Bregenz, London and Houston and is coming to Lincoln Center this summer. But a cycle of symphonies announced by a British label appears to have been abandoned. It’s two steps forward, one step back.

This week, however, Weinberg will be BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week, assuring him one of the network’s prime showcases. The microsite is down at present. You can listen to Weinberg tomorrow and every day this week at noon.

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  • So sorry that Britain has not heard about our brilliant staging of Weinberg’s The Passenger in Karlsruhe, the second production after Bregenz – 9 performances in 2014!

  • This recognition means a lot to me. We are taking The Passenger to Lincoln Centre Festival this summer, but I am also thrilled to see more and more recordings appearing – Gothenburg doing the Cello Concerto, 18th and 20th symphonies coming out. It’s very moving to see this renaissance coming true!

  • Like Norman, I too have been writing about Weinberg since 1991 or so and am likewise delighted at the gradual breakthrough of his music. I couldn’t have known way back then that I would be the “expert witness” for these “Composer of the Week” programmes but am glad to be doing my bit. My record label, Toccata Classics, is also doing its bit: we’ve recently taken delivery of our July releases, which include the early — and gloriously catchy — suite “Polish Tunes” and the Symphony No. 21, the last he completed; it’s dedicated to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. You can sample it at http://www.toccataclassics.com/cddetail.php?CN=TOCC0193.

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