Miecyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996) / composer

There were several things that drew me to Weinberg and his music. The first thing was that his birth date of December 8 is something I share with him. Secondly he is of Polish origin (another thing I have in common with him), though he lived most of his life in Russia and is known as a Russian composer.

The first paragraph of his biography reads:

“There are composers whose lives were marked by the cataclysms of the ‘short twentieth century’; there are composers who deserve far more space than they have been allocated in histories of music; there are composers who were exceptionally prolific. Mieczyslaw Weinberg presents a rare case of all three in one.”

His life was tragic and heroic. He escaped the Holocaust in Poland only to live and work in Russia, and later be imprisoned there for charges of “Jewish bourgeois nationalism.” Only through the intervention of his friend Shostakovich was he eventually released.

Reflecting the tragedies and resolutions of his life, his music can be bright and hopeful one moment, and despairing the next. Though he is not well known here (or in Russia for that matter), some consider him “the third great Soviet composer along with Prokofiev and Shostakovich.”

Towards the end of his life, Weinberg suffered from Crohn’s disease and remained housebound for the last three years, although he continued to compose. It has been claimed he converted to Orthodox Christianity less than two months before his death in Moscow.

At any rate, I am currently exploring the life and music of this man.

Recent listening (Prokofiev, Martino, XTC and Ravel)

I listen to music every day quite intently. On my iPod during my one hour daily jog and on CD in my car. My recent favorites come from very different sources and styles.

1) “Prokofiev Piano Concertos One, Two and Three.”All great and full of invention. My favorite recording of these Concertos is the one by pianist Michael Beroff and the Gewandhaus Orchestre Leipzig under Kurt Mazur.

2) Pat Martino-“We’ll Be Together Again”-Pat’s 1976 duet album with keyboardist Gil Goldstein is Pat at his best. The 15 minute opening composition is Pat Martino at his best as an improvising musician and composer. Gil Goldstein is a great as well.

3) “Skylarking” by XTC. I am listening to the new edition of this 1986 recording by my all time favorite Pop group (aside from The Beatles). The sound has been much enhanced by the remaster. Aside from Andy Partridge’s great tunes the album was produced by the great Todd Rundgren.

4) “Ravel:Complete Music for Solo Piano by Abbey Simon.” This box set on Vox has been around for a long time. Abbey Simon is still performing at the age of 94. This set was recorded at least 20 years ago and I keep coming back to it.

Ravel is maybe my favorite composer and though I admire other pianists interpretations of Ravel like those of Samson Francois and Pascal Roge it is always Abbey Simon who I return to.

SEARCH REYNOLD.COM