I think, no, I’m sure that Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s cello concerto is one of his best-known works. Weinberg composed it in 1948 and dedicated it to Mstislav Rostropovich, who also gave the premiere in 1957. And it did not stop there: Rostropovich was so convinced of the high quality of the composition that he included the concerto in his repertoire. He took the concerto with him to his live performances and also to the recording studios, as a result of which it is very well documented.
Now, the origin of the work is more complicated than we (or I!) thought. In short: first there was a Concertino for cello and orchestra that was just sitting on the shelf until Rostropovich came across it and appreciated it a lot. This was Weinberg’s main reason for rewriting it into a real concerto.
All this can be read in the textbook that ‘accompanies’ the new recording of the cello concerto by Raphael Wallfisch. The textbook alone is reason enough to purchase the CD. In addition we also get the original Concertino (which has now been given the designation opus 43 bis)! It was first performed in 2017 and, to my knowledge, was recorded for the first time in 2020. It is such a luxury to be able to listen to both ‘versions’ side by side!
And then there is the beautiful, melancholic Fantasy for cello and orchestra. Weinberg composed it in the winter of 1952/53 and the premiere took place on November 23, 1953, but without the orchestra. It was performed by Daniil Shafran (cello) accompanied by Nina Musinyan (piano). The piece takes only 17 minutes: but that is long enough for a whole range of emotions to pass by.
The performance by Raphael Wallfisch is unequalled, it is only natural that he has an affinity with it. The Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Lukasz Borowicz is also excellent. It is a huge asset.