An open letter from Gidon Kremer to Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

An open letter from Gidon Kremer to Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla


norman lebrecht

November 27, 2018

Gidon has allowed Slipped Disc to publish his letter to Mirga after their Birmingham performance of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s 21st symphony, titled Kaddish.

Dearest Mirga !
Dear friends and colleagues – musicians of CBSO and Kremerata Baltica.

I am writing to you to express my personal gratitude and excitement ,which I was not able to share with you last night due to the stressful day and sudden end of the “patching session”.

First at all let me tell -something I already said to you ,Mirga, after listening to the concert recording of “Kaddish” on Sunday: “this score did convince me once more , that there is “life after death”.

Many thanks to you, to all CBSO musicians and its administration (especially to Stephen)- to have accepted our “Kremerata family” (including its office-“Magicteam”) to be part of a unique project we dreamt about for almost a year. The exchange of serious and committed music-making did give all of us a very special feeling, which on our Kremerata language is called “Searching for music”.

We all know, that at times of J.S.Bach, Telemann was the more “recognised “ and appreciated composer.
We know as well that it took decades for the world to discover the greatness of–to mention just few names- Schubert, Wagner or Bartok . These are not the only examples. Time allows and demands us to look at things and values differently.

Time has come as well to recognise the genius of Mieczyslaw Weinberg-one of the most important composers of the 20th century. His closest friend and associate Dmitry Shostakovich valued very highly Weinbergs creativity . As recently Shostakovich widow Irina told me- “Dmitry Dmitrievich would be more than happy to see how the world step by step discovers the special qualities of his dear colleague, the values of which he always believed in”.

The music of Weinberg not only has a “signature”, but -what differentiates him from many accomplished masters of composition in the 20 century-is deeply personal. There are many more works by Weinberg to become better known in future and especially in the next year ,while celebrating the composers 100 anniversary (1919-2019). This in fact motivates me strongly to do as much as I can for the “renaissance” of a most important and still underrated (by some) composer.

Dear Mirga! Dear friends!
Our joint and most powerful UK premiere of the “Kaddish” Symphony on Saturday can be seen as an important milestone of this necessary discovery. You certainly could sense it-the performance really became an event, which members of both orchestras and our dear guests soloists ( Maria,Freddie, Iurii, Georgijs and Oliver -along with many more brilliant CBSO musicians ),who participated in this project (not to forget-myself!) will never forget.

As I already said to you after our dress rehearsal-it simply made me happy to see, that my dream became true. Thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of you, dear Mirga, and your full commitment, all of us became ONE sounding emotional “body”.

This-in order to become an advocate of a statement, which in the most powerful way describes the tragedy never to be forgotten. The performance of “Kaddish” was a reminder of the true meaning of our profession-not just to play perfect sounds, but to deliver “messages” .
Exactly this should make all of us proud of the achievement.

It was a really historic concert, filled with undeniable positive energy and the sense-so rarely occurring our days of music commercialisation ,“crossover” and the “event industry”-that music-making still makes sense and leads us (while serving its creators) into another world – a world of emotions on a deepest level. I do sincerely think, that Saturday’s concert reached the hearts of all participants as much as those who “only” listened to the performance.

To me the world of Weinberg is undeniable related to another great composer of the 20th century. No doubt-the dimension and deepness of “Kaddish” is in many parameters truly “Mahlerian”.
Weinbergs statements (remaining pieces of true art) do spread around empathy to all sufferings of the past, while we still in different ways are surrounded by tragedies in todays world.

Let me once more express my deepest gratitude for allowing the young Baltic musicians and myself to be part of this unforgettable experience.

It is wonderful that technology (and a great team of sound engineers led by Vilius Keras) allowed us to document the event. I am sure that the message of “Kaddish” being an important piece of music, will slowly but surely spread around and become known to many people in the world.
Let’s hope that our accomplished mission will “carry fruits” for many other scores of Mieczyslav Weinberg, who -despite his personal tragedy-was able to create such a masterpiece.

Being an “artist in residence” this season with CBSO allows me to look forward to my next visit to Birmingham and your wonderful orchestra.

I am sure, that Kremerata Baltica’s young musicians, who appreciated highly the possibility to cooperate with an orchestra of such greatness as CBSO is, do hope in future to participate in another joint project.
We are more than happy to welcome you, dear Mirga, next week performing another Weinberg Symphony in Vilnius. However-the experience of “Kaddish” will stay with me and all of us forever.

Last ,but not least.
Dearest Mirga, we already for some years do speak the same language.
I wish us to stay for many more years in this wonderful dialogue.
Let your inspiration continue to share your soul with all those people ,who are able and happy to follow your talent and vision.
With personalities like you-there is a future for music.

Warmest greetings to everybody, who allowed me and us to have such an enriching experience.

Yours truly Gidon .

November 26/27, 2018 Birmingham-Vilnius.

Read a review of the concert here.


  • Jonathan Dunsby says:

    Thanks for sharing. Do SD readers know much of Weinberg’s music ? Afraid to say I’d never heard of him

  • Max says:

    Yawn…this is of any importance why?
    A personal favour for Kremer, or what?
    Drain the swamp.

  • Steve says:

    Great to see that the formidable symphonies of Weinberg are finding a foothold in the major concert halls, also that 2019 will be the centenary of Weinberg! (finally a centenary of interest..)
    Looking forward to the recording of Mirga/Gidon’s performance but in the meanwhile I did find this magnificent performance of the 21st symphony:

  • C Porumbescu says:

    The performance was indeed extraordinary in its intensity. The recording should be quite something.

  • I am thrilled that Weinberg’s music is finally getting the recognition it deserves. I first came across his work whilst at university (thanks to David Fanning) and when a student in St Petersburg I was amazed that even there he was a virtual unknown. I relished the opportunity to study the few scores in the conservatoire library and when I was finally able to programme a work of his in a concert in London in 2000 (the 1st Chamber Symphony) the reaction of most of the players was the same – why have I not heard of this composer before? It is one of the greatest pleasures to introduce unjustly neglected music to audiences, and fellow musicians. I was unable to attend the weekend in Birmingham but am looking forward to hearing them explore more of Weinberg’s music in March.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      If there is a pianist out there that would like to play the great Weinberg clarinet sonata, I am game! Get in touch with me please.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      If there is a pianist out there that would like to play the great Weinberg clarinet sonata, get in touch with me please.

  • Derek says:

    Gidon Kremer has great integrity as a musician and as a person.

    The performance of Weinberg’s Symphony 21 was very moving and an exceptional experience. It was a UK Premiere.

    Well done to all involved!

  • JoBe says:

    Is this really a letter by Kremer… or a hoax? Because WHO would write or even think that “it took decades for the world to discover the greatness of” WAGNER???

    Wagner had a king for a patron, he could build his own theatre, his style influenced – in his lifetime – countless composers of great value, and he had slavish admirers and devotees, which he took a great pleasure in humiliating. For God’s sake, Wagner was considered as the greatest living composer by… Brahms himself!!!

    Mr. Kremer, if that is indeed you, it is just and right to ask for a greater recognition of Weinberg. But don’t put the lid on other 20th-century geniuses. Roberto Gerhard, Wladimir Vogel, Goffredo Petrassi, and Egon Wellesz, just to name these four, are also quite overlooked.

    Although I still think this letter is a hoax.

  • Caravaggio says:

    I am thinking that this windfall of love and gratitude for Weinberg and Mirga could have been communicated in an economical sentence or two? Sometimes less is more.

  • another1 says:

    How many of the unimpressed commenters were in the hall audience on Saturday?
    It was deeply, viscerally, emotional, more than anything I have heard in 40 years of concert and opera-going.
    There was, to me, an almost film-like quality at times: from the violin (Kremer)-harp-piano salon episode to the boy and soprano grief at the end. The recording will prove the intensity but not the visual drama.

    • Rgiarola says:

      As Goethe said:”to be aware that the sky is blue in every place. It isn’t necessary to go to every spot in the world”

  • aj says:

    That Mr. Kremer values the works of Mieczyslav Weinberg
    is a given and is not to argued,but then we come to the
    weird if not ignorant observation that the true music art form not only deals with sounds but is some sort of Western Union and delivers “messages”. It would be
    laughable if the thought came from a less recognized
    source but coming from Mr. Kremer it is a sad observation.
    Mr. Kremer deems it necessary to note that the Kaddish
    is Mahlerian in some respects, why ?

  • anon says:

    Between the contradictory dictates of:
    – orchestras must premiere new works
    – orchestras must rediscover neglected composers
    What is left of the “classics” in “classical” music?

    Kremer’s argument is: in order to rediscover a Bach one had to play less of a Telemann.

    So which classic composer should we play less of in order to install Weinberg in the canon?

    And once Weinberg is safely restored to the canon, whom should we rediscover next in order to knock Weinberg back off the pedestal?

    • clarrieu says:

      “So which classic composer should we play less of in order to install Weinberg in the canon?” This gets an easy answer: play a little less of Dimitri Dimitrievitch Ch., and it’ll be just perfect.

  • C Porumbescu says:

    Having heard all 3 of the main Weinberg performances in Birmingham at the weekend – and having been shaken to the soul by the intensity of the music, and the interpretations of Kremer & Grainyte-Tyla – some of the comments here from people who clearly weren’t present would be laughable, if they didn’t betray a mentality so hollow, so limited and so shrill. And it’s hardly surprising that a musician who does not speak English as a first language should express himself slightly clumsily. His sincerity, nonetheless, is palpable. Haters: you’re ants attacking a lion. You look ridiculous.

  • Dave says:

    It’s wonderful to see the attention being paid to Weinberg of late, but it’s surprising that the string quartets are seldom mentioned. Fascinating, riveting music! There’s an excellent box of all 17 by the Danel Quartet on cpo.

    It’s very interesting to lay out Weinberg’s 17 with Shostakovich’s 15, and listen in order of composition. The two had a friendly competition going in these, and both were clearly influencing each other.

  • Rgiarola says:

    We know slipped could promote Mirga, even with a letter from Trump, if it could help it. Funny, no more Dudamel hype around here. The “Messiah” stucked in LA along Axl Rose, David Hasselhof and other decadent ones. Mirga at least can speak other than her native langague. Huge improvement comparing.

  • Eva says:

    Can I ask as a foreigner- how many languages do you all speak well and can write in them? Kremer can do so in at least four.

  • Kathrin Peters says:

    I was at the concert and it was magical. At the same time so very sad because of the terrible events it commemorates but also full of beauty and hope. It was an evening to remember forever and I hope that Weinberg will soon be recognised as the genius he was. The other concerts given as part of the week-end were equally wonderful. A stunning collaboration between Gidon, Mirga, the CBSO and Kremerata Baltica.

  • Ben says:

    Is the piece bombastic? Carnegie Hall audience would love it if it is so.