WEINBERG 24 Preludes (Gidon Kremer)
The centenary of Mieczysaw Weinberg’s birth augurs a wealth of significant new recordings, one of which is undoubtedly this release from Accentus. Solo instrumental works came to the forefront of the composer’s output over his final three decades – the 24 Preludes having been written in 1967 for, but never played by, Mstislav Rostropovich and not heard in public until 1995. As transcribed by Gidon Kremer, whose latter-day commitment to the Weinberg cause has been unstinting, they can now take their place as a landmark of the solo violin repertoire.
Written in the wake of his opera The Passenger, these Preludes find Weinberg in combative and even capricious mood. Unlike Chopin or Shostakovich, he tackled the sequence not as a circle of fifths but as an arc of 12 ascending then 12 descending semitones – implying a two-part structure. Equally plausible are intensifying three-part or even four-movement formats, with pivotal roles assumed by the preludes in question. Throughout this cycle, pieces rich in stylistic or personal allusion are offset by others which focus on abstract musical essentials.
All in all, this is a fascinating and expressively inclusive opus to which Kremer does justice with his resourceful and idiomatic transcription, his tensile and incisive tone only abetting the music’s plangency. In a live context his readings have often been complemented by overhead projections from the Lithuanian photographer Antanas Sutkus, whose images afford an overview of life in the final decades of the Soviet bloc the more affecting for their starkness and restraint, and which might profitably have been included as a DVD adjunct to the present performance.
No matter: this is a self-recommending release, and not least for those who already have the original cello version in its pioneering account by Josef Feigelsen (Naxos) or the more recent version by Marina Tarasova (Northern Flowers, 12/18). The sound has a tangible immediacy and realism, while the booklet features an introduction from Kremer and an informative essay by Verena Mogl. A pity, though, that she does not give Viktor Kubatsky as having premiered Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata in 1934 – rather than the (then) seven-year-old Rostropovich!