Aria for string quartet op. 9 (1942)
Quartet No. 5, op. 27 in B flat major (1945)
Melodia – Humoreska – Scherzo – Improvisation – Serenata
String trio op. 48 (1950)
Allegro con moto – Andante – Allegro
Quartet No. 15 op. 124 (1980)
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With a restrained lyricism, this Aria is of a Schubertian tenderness that allows us to enter the musical universe of Mieczyslaw Weinberg in a peaceful manner.
From plainness to carefree, from sometimes angry vigour to simplicity, the five movements of Quartet No. 5, each with contrasting characters, make it a major work.
The String Trio op 48 is characterised by its simplicity and perhaps evokes Weinberg’s years in the orchestra of a Jewish theater in Warsaw. The Andante, through the “dematerialized” high notes of the violin, gives us a feeling of weightlessness.
Quartet No. 15 is more experimental in its writing. With its dark and barren songs, interrogative melodies, frenetic duets and brutal chords, the 9 movements of this work, with its sculpted writing, bring us back, after a quotation from his Requiem (1965/67), to a subdued sadness.
The Aria op 9 is Weinberg’s first work for string quartet to reach us as it was composed, the first two quartets having been revised by Weinberg after several decades. Of a restrained lyricism, the melody rests on a gentle pulsation with enchanting harmonies: this Aria is of a very Schubertian tenderness. The particular colour created by the mute allows us to enter Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s musical universe in a peaceful way.
Between 1944 and 1946, Weinberg, having recently moved to Moscow, composed the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th quartets, as well as the piano quintet. The movements of Quartet No. 5 have titles that illustrate their character. The musical language is not marked by formal ambitions, but rather follows the internal energy and lyricism of the melody, gradually moving us away from the movement’s initial statement and sometimes back to it. The plainness of the beginning of the Melodia and the Improvisation, the initial carefree nature of the Humoreska, the vigour of the Scherzo, the simplicity of the first bars of the Serenata and the nostalgia inspired by the final cadence make this 5th quartet a major work by which Weinberg, at 26, shows the maturity of his language.
The String Trio op 48 is characterized by its simplicity. An ideal work to link the two major quartets programmed this evening. The initial Allegro con moto deploys a theme with klezmer resonances, similar to that of the 2nd section of Quartet No. 8 – which you can hear on December 7 – and which reminds us of the years Mieczyslaw Weinberg spent with his father in the orchestra of a Jewish theater in Warsaw. The Andante introduces a theme exposed in turn by the three instruments, the high violin notes, “dematerialized”, offering us a feeling of weightlessness. The finale, supported by a relentless pulsation, brings us back to a more popular atmosphere.
Weinberg, involved in the composition of more major works, moved away from the quartet between 1970 and 1977. Quartets 13, 14, 15 and 16 were written before the end of 1981. In Quartet No. 15, as in the trio for alto flute and harp op 127 (1979), the language here is more experimental. The 9 movements linked together only have tempo indications, excluding titles or expression marks. The first movement features a dark chorale that alternates with trills passing from one instrument to another. A more rhythmic element intervenes in the 2nd movement, alternating with monodies – one-voice singing – full of questioning. This is followed by a dialogue between two instruments playing two close notes simultaneously, the writing giving a diffuse impression that recalls some passages from the first quartet of the Hungarian composer Ligeti. The 4th movement is an asymmetrical march that escapes the allusive character of the previous movements, quickly giving way to large epic solos. An increasingly wild energy animates the 5th movement, which begins with a frenetic dialogue between the two violins, soon joined by the other two instruments. The next movement juxtaposes resolute heroism and annoyed lyricism to end abruptly with three violent chords of an irrevocable nature. The theme of the 7th movement is largely stated by the first violin alone, as a call, then taken up by the other three instruments. The 8th movement takes up the theme of the children’s choir from the Requiem (1965/67), referring to the drama of Hiroshima: severe or indifferent pizzicatos support plaintive melodies, as if they were lost. It leads us progressively, without interruption, towards an expressive, thoughtful finale, coloured by a sober sadness.