The one I swore I’d never review again

Every writer gets complaints. Some are justified. Most of us adjust to intelligent opinion.

The complaint that kept coming my way was that I banged on too  much about a composer readers had neither heard of nor cared about.

Point taken. I happen to believe that Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919 – 1996) was the most interesting composer in the late Soviet Union after his friend Dmitri Shostakovich, and that he is also an indispensable musical guide to understanding some of his friend’s important works. Time alone will tell if Weinberg achieves the recognition I believe he deserves, but I made a private resolution not to review him again for a year, at least.

Even though Kremer and Trifonov are playing his music in major US cities right now.

Take him off the review list.

And then this release arrived. It’s my Album of the Week on sinfinimusic.com. Forget Shostakovich. It’s the most brilliant musical commentary ever written on Mahler’s 9th symphony. Absolutely indispensable five-star music. Click here.

shostakovich weinberg

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  • Dear Norman,

    at the risk of “banging on” I would like to strongly support your championing of Weinberg. He was without a doubt one of the most interesting composers of his period who has not received his due in attention to this day, and it is great that several major artist have taken up the cause. Please do not be put off championing him more in the future!

  • Not a composer I’m keen on, but I strongly agree with Mr Clarkson – the slightly more obscure composers need champions! Keep at it.

  • I have never heard Weinberg’s music before and am listening to samples as we “speak.” Thank you so much, Norman, for bringing this Russian-to-the-core composer to the attention of those of us unfamiliar with his music.

  • I’ve started listening to his music thanks to your “banging on” and discovered how terrific it is. There’s more that should know his music so I echo the above comments and say keep at it!

  • Another close acquaintance and successor to Shostakovich it Qara Qarajev, an Azeri, born in Baku. His suite The Seven Beauties is often on the repertoire, especially in Azerbaijan, as it is based on a famous romantic epic by Nizami from the now Azeri city of Ganja (Nizami Ganjavi), written in Persian in 1197. The waltz from this suite reflects Shostakovich’ waltz from the Jazz Suites, and equals it in quality. Even stronger is Qarajev’s violin concerto, which certainly brings memories of Shostakovich’s violin concertos, but certainly stands on its own. There is an impressive recording with Kremer. To be honest I found these pieces perhaps more worthwhile than whatever I have tried from Weinberg, how sympathetic the efforts on Naxos and Chandos may have been. Several of Weinberg’s symphonies leave me ambivalent.

    • Man, I have even *heard of* Qarayev, and it certainly doesn’t help finding information about him and his music that his name can apparently be spelled with a Q, a K, or a G – but that’s what the internet is for! I will definitely check out “The Seven Beauties”. Thanks for the tip!

  • I don’t know who these people are who object to hearing you write about Weinberg – but imho he’s well worth hearing. I have heard the Danel Quartet in Manchester give a brief (and excellently played) survey of some of his quartets. It was difficult to make much of an assessment on just a single hearing but they were clearly pieces that are well worth getting to know.

  • It’s usually written simply Kara Karayev. I came across his music 10 years ago, it’s really colourful and oriental.

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