ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG - Symphony No. 4


MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG - Symphony No. 4 - Violin Concerto - Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra - Ilya Gringolts (Violin) - Jacek Kaspszyk (Conductor) - 0825646224838 - Released: February 2015 - Warner Classics 2564622483

I'm sure not to win any popularity contests by saying this, but over the last several years I've lost faith in and respect for the "major" labels, as they seem to have lost touch with what it is that classical music collectors want. They seem to have forgotten that the whole raison d'être behind all this is the music itself, and not the performer, marketing or packaging. They've either been constantly re-packaging and re-issuing the same old re-issues of the same old recordings, or have constantly released new recordings of bad singers doing crossover material in a desperate attempt to capture a younger audience (subjective personal opinion of course), all of which has turned out to be a dismal failure. But once in a while, on very rare occasions, they pull a 360 and release worthwhile recordings of very good music (subjective personal opinion of course). This new release on Warner Classics is a prime example of just that, and an outstanding recording to boot.

Based on the number of reviews on this site for recordings of his music, it's obvious that Polish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996) is a favorite of mine. His music bears the stamp so typical in style and sound to the Russian composers from the Soviet era. Shostakovich was a close friend and his influence on Weinberg is glaringly apparent, but Weinberg's writing is much more versatile, and more adept at bringing multiple ideas together. This new recording by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of conductor Jacek Kaspszyk features two of Weinberg's best works that both had their public premières in 1961. The Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 67's first movement barges in with the momentum of a heavy locomotive bound for trouble. In fact, at just about the 8:00 mark near the end of the movement, there is a short segment in which the solo violin sounds like the mechanical rhythm of a distant train. It's a movement that requires technical refinement from the soloist. The beautifully lyrical Adagio movement is what elevates this concerto, in my opinion, to the status of one of the best violin concertos of the 20th century. Its emotionally charged melody, which violinist Ilya Gringolts allows to unravel slowly and with heartrending beauty, is but one example of what sets this composer apart. I think you will know what I mean once you've heard the final breathtaking moments. The way Ilya Gringolts shapes and delivers the long, high and soft final note is a goosebump inducing moment. The Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 61 is marked by energetic cello and double bass ostinatos on which powerful structures are built, haunting solo clarinet passages (nobody writes haunting solo clarinet passages like the Soviets), and a final movement bristling with so much activity and conflicting ideas that you won't believe your ears when you hear how Weinberg brings everything together in the end, and how brilliantly he pulls it off.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg was born in Warsaw, so it's hard to believe that only one other recording (reviewed here) of his music, features the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. They rank as one of the best ensembles in the world, and boast a sound suited perfectly for this kind of music. Led here by conductor Jacek Kaspszyk they certainly deliver highly commendable readings of these powerful pieces. Who better to play Weinberg than his hometown band.

Please. Warner Classics. We want more of this!

Jean-Yves Duperron - March 2015