The most important composer you’ve never heard

The most important composer you’ve never heard


norman lebrecht

January 21, 2017

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

When I first started writing about Weinberg quarter of a century ago, there was no consistent western spelling of his surname (mostly printed Vainberg) and his first name was given as Moisei (pronounced Moshe), consistent with Soviet policy of identifying racial minorities. As for the music, it was unknown beyond the Soviet bloc, where it was more familiar to musicians in private performances than it was to public audiences. Today, thanks largely to proselytism by Gidon Kremer and his friends, Weinberg is no longer obscure but a musical giant, waiting to be discovered….

Read on here.

And here.

Or here.



  • John Borstlap says:

    “Weinberg is now a must-know composer.”

    Which is very true:

    The idiom is really different from Shostakovich’s, you can clearly hear another personality handling the language.

  • Gary Carpenter says:

    I think a considerable amount of credit for Weinberg’s reappraisal has to be given to David Fanning and Michelle Assay.

  • REGERFAN says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing Kremer play the Weinberg violin concerto next weekend in DC. Superficially it did sound like Shostakovich to me during a quick visit to a youtube video – so I’ll be listening for Weinberg’s individual voice.

  • bratschegirl says:

    One of the orchestras where I play did his trumpet concerto, featuring our principal trumpeter, a couple of years ago. He’d discovered the piece in college and been evangelizing for it ever since. Wonderful music; we all very much enjoyed getting to know it.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    About 25 years ago, when I discovered his great music, there was a Swedish lawyer who was, with great devotion, trying to look after him and promote his music. Does anybody remember who this was? I was vaguely in touch with him at the time.

    • Nicholas Cox says:

      You mean Per Skans? Sadly he died a week after heart surgery about 10 years ago. His unfinished time on Weinberg was completed by David Fanning, Prof of Music at University of Manchester.

    • Dave Fox says:

      Perhaps you’re referring to Per Skans, the Swedish musicologist who passed away about 10 years ago. He was an expert on little-known Soviet era composers and Weinberg in particular. He wrote the liner notes for the Olympia CDs that introduced many to Weinberg’s music.

      • Ruben Greenberg says:

        Dave Fox,
        Yes, that’s the man. Thank you. He did his best to promote Weinberg’s music, but the printed music wasn’t readily available in those days, so how could one play it? It is still a problem getting the sheet music of works by composers of the ex-Soviet Union. I’m sure this will be a subject of discussion between Trump and Putin.

  • Christopher CZAJA SAGER says:

    rather large area of diverse and cultivated musicians…’Soviet block’..!

    oy, another Shostakovitsch clone?
    lots of very good ‘second line’ composers, but too often without prof-promoters……
    one needs pr, an agent..heh?

  • Esfir Ross says:

    M.Wainberg wasn’t obscure composer in USSR, but not popular and wide played
    as his great contemporaries; Rodion Shchedrin, German Galinin, Alfred Schnittke,
    Sviridov,R.Glier, V.Gavrilin.Their music took over the world.

  • Rabbie says:

    And for light relief – and I assume Weinberg wrote the music to make a living – google Russian Winnie the Pooh.. It knocks the Disney travesty into a cocked hat

  • Paul Rapoport says:

    Yes, a singular composer. The names Moisei (or Moysey, a spelling I prefer while no one else seems to) and Moshe (or Moishe) aren’t the same. The former is Russian, the latter (pair) derive from Hebrew. Moishe is a traditional Yiddish pronunciation.

    Maybe in English we should just call him Moses.

  • Rabbie says:

    His opera The Passenger was given a production by David Pountney at Bregenz in 2010 and subsequently at the ENO and – I think – in Chicago and elsewhere. And for light relief google Russian Winnie the Pooh for a great collection of cartoons with music by Weinberg (probably just to make a living) which knock the Disney travesties into a cocked hat. The Poles don’t claim him as a composer as he went to Russia and the Russians don’t claim him as he was a Polish Jew. .

  • Willi Stivelman says:

    I continue ot be amazed by those who refer to the Jews as members of a ‘race.’ It’s quite politically incorrect, at least in some countries, plus the races are Black, White, Asian, Malaysian, American Indian, Eskimo and there are probably subsets of many with cross genetic similarities and dissimilarities. There are Tibetan Jews (about 5000 families, black African Jews, Aboriginal Jews—all for centuries, let alone those who have electively converted to Judaism, in particular, Sammy Davis Junior as a case in point. So how can it be conceived that Weinberg by any spelling was of the Jewish race? How about trying the word ethnicity next time, as it is defined as “the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.” This the most accurate depiction of what the writer in the intiial article I believe, presumptively, is trying to say.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I don’t see anyone here or in the linked articles talking about “the Jewish race”. Where is that?

  • Basia Jaworski says:

    Great composer, wonderful music!
    I´ve wrote a lot about him as I adore almost everything he composed.

    My review of the `norman´s cd`:

  • Basia Jaworski says:

    And this one, on his opera “the Passenger” is even translated in English!