He composed seventeen of them. Seventeen string quartets that just about mark his entire musical life. Mieczyslaw Weinberg, the composer who is finally being rescued from oblivion, albeit (too) late. And posthumously.
The best known of all his quartets is, I think, number eight. This does not surprise me because it is not only insanely emotional, but at the same time also restrained. It begins with an Adagio that you cannot escape. Very beautiful but also quite painful. The following Alegretto does not offer any solace either: it should be cheerful but it is not. Part three, Doppo piú lento is nothing but distressing. This music will not make you happy, but it gets under your skin and then never lets go. Weinberg composed it in 1959 and dedicated it to the Borodin Quartet.
Number two is an early piece; he wrote it in 1939, when he was still a conservatory student in Warsaw and he dedicated it to his mother and sister (neither of whom survived the war). He revised it in 1987. I would love to be able to compare both versions… maybe one day I will?
The Arcadia Quartet and Chandos have now embarked on a new project: they are going to record all of Weinberg’s string quartets, commendable. It is not the first time that all of Weinberg’s string quartets have been recorded though; the Danel Quartet preceded them. Something that escaped the press.
I myself don’t know this earlier recording, but I think it cannot possibly be better than this version. Because it is just perfect. The members of the string quartet, unknown to me until now, play lively and their commitment is palpable. Simply put: they play the stars from the sky.
Arcadia Quartet about Weinberg: “his music is like a glow of light surrounded by the darkness of the unknown […]. With every recording and every live performance of his music, we want to shed some light on this wide-ranging, profound phenomenon, which has been overlooked for so long, and we hope that in time Mieczyslaw Weinberg will take his rightful place in the history of music”.
I can only say ‘Amen’ to that and I just can’t wait for the sequel. Bravo Arcadians! And chapeau again to Chandos!
String quartets 2, 5 and 8
Chandos Chan 20158
You mention that Weinberg was forgotten for a long time until he rather recently has been brought from oblivion. It is a fascinating subject of why – and how many – composers are waiting to be “discovered” and how many, who most certainly deserve it, never will.