Friday 4 September 2015

September Update

Upcoming releases
The coming months promise a flurry of new and exciting recordings, with several attractive releases on offer.

Perhaps the most exciting of these is an upcoming release of a concert recording of Weinberg's opera The Idiot, based on Dostoevsky's classic novel. The opera was premiered in Germany in 2013 and has proven a surprise runaway success. I say 'surprise' owing to the opera's sheer length - this recording spreads across 3 CDs, and a full performance of the opera runs to just under four hours.
   However, with this release, the first commercially available recording of the opera, it is hoped that the work will receive more attention in English-speaking countries: it over-due a performance in the UK or US.

   From the Amazon website:
The Polish-Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996), who lost his family due to National Socialism, fled to Russia and, again, was later subjected to Stalinist persecution, was one of the unjustly forgotten composers of the 20th century until recently. He left behind a considerable oeuvre and with an impressive renaissance during recent years, including an acclaimed production of 'The Passenger', at ENO, he is now considered one of the most important composers of the Soviet Union alongside Shostakovich and Prokofiev. 'The Idiot', based on the novel of the same title by Dostoyevsky, is Weinberg's final opera, composed during the mid-1980s. The plot: the young Prince Myshkin returns to St. Petersburg, penniless after many years spent in a Swiss clinic. In the train he meets the rich Rogoshin, who is driven by a dark passion for Nastassia, a 'fallen' woman. The unstable Prince, lacking contact with reality due to his illness and naively believing in the goodness of human beings - portrayed as a kind of Russian Don Quixote, also falls in love with Nastassia, but in a different way: he wishes to save her. Between her and the young Aglaia, he himself becomes part of a network of material and sexual dependences, wounds, obsessions and the incapability of forming a relationship, finally ending in Rogoshin's murder of Nastassia. Myshkin freezes in the arms of the murderer in a state between madness and tenderness. This live recording from the Mannheim National Theatre in 2014 documents the production with which Weinberg's 'Idiot' had received its world premiere one year previously in Mannheim, unanimously celebrated by audiences and critics alike. The renowned specialists' journal Die Opernwelt named the production 'World premiere of the year'.

(It is worth pointing out that the World premiere of the Idiot did not take place in 2013, but way back in 1991, given by the Moscow Chamber Opera).

Amazon link for the CD: here.

Continuing along the lines of Weinberg's operas, the video recording of the excellent premiere production of The Passenger is to be re-released on the ArtHaus Music label. Previously available on the Neos label, this recording is really not to be missed. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray. 
Here's a preview video from youtube: 

Online pre-order: Link.

Next up: the CPO label continue their admirable series on Weinberg's music. This release stars the violinist Ewelina Nowicka, who also featured on an excellent CD of violin sonatas released in 2013. The works featured here expand that repertoire, with an arrangement of the 'Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes' in a version for orchestra and violin soloist (Weinberg had produced a similar arrangement, but it is now lost). This is capped with the Tenth Symphony - a work that has been receiving large amounts of attention in recent years, and deservedly so. 

From CPO's page: 

The Continuation of Our Weinberg Edition

Gradually and fortunately, for some years now the extensive and highly significant oeuvre of the Polish-Russian composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg has also been discovered and recognized in the West – a process also documented on our internationally highly regarded cpo recordings. During the 1960s Weinberg’s reputation was not only restored but also soared on high – at least in the Soviet Union. Interpreters of the rank of Rostropovich, Gilels, Kondrashin, Leonid Kogan, and the Borodin Quartet joined David Oistrach in his enthusiastic propagation of Weinberg’s music. The Symphony No. 10 is the most stylistically advanced and experimental composition among his purely instrumental works. In conjunction with her research on Dmitri Shostakovich’s life, the Polish violinist and composer Evelina Novicka’s attention was also drawn to the composer Weinberg. Impressed by his compositions, she has recorded several premieres of his works, including the Concertino op. 42 and Rhapsody op. 47 heard on this most recent CD. She herself has arranged the lost version of the Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes for violin and orchestra.

The CD is available to order from the JPC website, here.

Last but not least, the Zemlinsky Quartet are releasing an attractive new disc of Weinberg quartets, with pianist Nikita Mndoyants joining them for Weinberg's Piano Quintet. Since my own research focuses on Weinberg's quartets, I am keenly anticipating this release. 

From their description: 

The music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919 - 1996) is among some of the 20th century's greatest hidden treasures. Born in Poland, Weinberg emigrated to Russia in perilous circumstances, where he was to live out the rest of his days in the shadow of his close friend Dimitry Shostakovich, by whom he was regarded as one of the most outstanding composers of the day, Weinberg is slowly being rediscovered as a 20th century genius, a figure of immense significance in the landscape of post-modern classical music. Weinberg's musical idiom stylistically mixes traditional and contemporary forms, combining a freely tonal, individual language inspired by Shostakovich with ethnic (Jewish, Polish, Moldovian) influences and a unique sense of form, harmony and colour. His prolific output includes no less than 17 string quartets, over 20 large-scale symphonies, numerous sonatas for solo stringed instruments and piano as well as operas and film-scores. With the constant stream of recordings, score publications and concerts over the last decade, many of these gems have been unearthed to finally receive the critical praise and attention they deserve. Here, the Zemlinsky Quartet prove themselves to be the worthy successors of the Borodin Quartet.

The disc is available to pre-order from Amazon here.

Upcoming Concerts
I'm still promoting an upcoming concert at the University of Manchester, given by the Quatuor Danel, performing Weinberg's Piano Quintet, Op. 18. Internationally-acclaimed pianist Alexander Melnikov will be joining them. The concert takes place on Friday 2 October, at the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama in Manchester. I will be providing programme notes, of course.

More details here.

My own work
Progress on my PhD thesis continues. There are several articles of mine that are in various stages of publication, including one for a collection commissioned by the Council of Europe. The volume translates my rather slim academic biography into French, where it suddenly seems more attractive somehow:

The thesis goes well - tantalisingly close to a first draft of the entire document. September brings the start of a new academic year at the University of Manchester, and my workload as a Graduate Teaching Assistant has increased oncemore. I will continue to update this blog with upcoming news on Weinberg's music and also on my own academic work. 

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