Composers: Weinberg
Compositions: 24 Preludes for Solo Violin
Performers: Gidon Kremer v
Catalogue Number: Accentus ACC30476

The more we hear the music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996), the more we are coming to see him as a substantial figure of the late 20th century. Practically unknown in the West before his death, and regarded with suspicion in his adoptive Soviet Russia because of his Polish-Jewish origins, Weinberg’s stature is finally being recognised as more recordings are made. We now have his complete string quartets, piano music and most of his symphonies on disc (including a terrific new DG release of Symphonies Nos 2 and 21 from the young conducting dynamo Mirga Gražinyte˙-Tyla). The Russian violinist Gidon Kremer was also involved in that project, and previously recorded his own string orchestral arrangement of Weinberg’s Piano Quintet with his ensemble Kremerata Baltica.

Here, Kremer plays the 24 Preludes for Solo Violin. Again, this is the violinist’s transcription. The 1969 work was conceived for cello, and dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich who never played it (although ‘Slava’ did premiere Weinberg’s Cello Concerto). The Preludes’ range of expression is broad. Although the soloist is required to face technical challenges – as in No 7, which alternates high harmonics with double stopped chords, or in the pizzicato of No 13 – this is not a showcase in the manner of Paganini’s Caprices or Ysaÿe’s Solo Sonatas. Instead, each short piece is a miniature character portrait. The manipulation of musical motifs occupies the composer ahead of technical wizardry.

Weinberg’s playfulness is evident (try the skipping Tenth Prelude) as well as his introversion, as in the quietly lyrical Twelfth. Prelude No 21 opens with a direct tribute to his friend Dmitri Shostakovich by quoting the opening DSCH motif of the latter’s First Cello Concerto. (The musical influence between the two composers flowed in both directions.) Kremer plays with authority, and immaculate tone and pitch. A fascinating discovery.