Gidon Kremer / Kremerata Baltica

Mieczyslaw Weinberg

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Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer has proven a near-infallible guide to the neglected music of the former Soviet bloc. In the case of Polish-born Soviet Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, the revival was well underway even before Kremer came along, but this beautifully recorded two-disc set makes for a tasty sampler. Weinberg's career roughly paralleled that of Shostakovich, and he suffered the slings of history to an even greater degree than Shostakovich did. The influence went both ways: Shostakovich's embrace of Jewish themes was probably due to Weinberg's example. The Symphony No. 10 on disc two gives a good indication of why Weinberg's symphonies are showing up so often on orchestral programs. The tonal language, flirting with dodecaphony, is not simple, but the five compact movements, rooted in Baroque dances, are arresting, especially with a crack string section such as the one Kremer has at his disposal (check out the cello acrobatics). The work is similar tonally but of a different flavor from Shostakovich's more atonal works of the 1960s. Even more intense is the late Sonata No. 3 for solo violin, Op. 126, played by Kremer himself. The other three works all date from the late 1940s and early 1950s. These are pleasing pieces in the Soviet vein of enforced simplicity. They're probably better than Shostakovich's works of the same period, but with an album that seems to aim to be a survey of Weinberg's music, one will wonder why the full range of the composer's music wasn't exploited. But this is really the only possible complaint in this fine collection.

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