Quartet No. 7 op. 59 (1957)
Adagio – Allegretto – Adagio, Allegro, Adagio
Quartet No. 8 op. 66 (1959)
Quartet No. 17 op. 146 (1987)
Allegro -Andantino – Lento – Allegro
19.00 About Weinberg – Discussion with Katarzyna Naliwajek and Nicolas Bacri
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The three works on this concert are associated with the name of the Borodin Quartet.
The first movement of Quartet No. 7 testifies to Weinberg’s melodic sense. The second movement, with its klezmer sonorities, recalls the delicacy of the Aria op 9. Its imposing finale is made up of 23 variations of a powerful theatrical nature.
Quartet No. 8 is more concise. The Allegretto, at the heart of the quartet, plunges us into a colourful atmosphere with a more “folkloric” language specific to Weinberg. The quartet ends with a return to the initial serenity.
Quartet No. 17, Weinberg’s last piece for string quartet, is interwoven with many solos and contains numerous recollections of earlier works. This quartet begins and ends in a more positive atmosphere than in other compositions.
Quartet No. 7 was written after an eleven-year break, a silence that followed the “anti-formalist” campaign of 1948 which left its mark on the Russian musical world for many years. It also marks the beginning of a collaboration with the Borodin Quartet, which will lead to the creation of quartets Nos. 7, 8, 9, 11 and 16. The first movement, Adagio, is yet another example of Weinberg’s art of creating phrases with a refined lyricism. During the movement, the patterns of the accompaniment become more rigid, the movement takes the form of a march that alternates, like a recollection, with a Jewish dance theme. This nostalgic feeling is found in the next Allegretto, also with a klezmer hue, and the relatively serene theme is regularly contradicted by more brutal elements and angry interruptions, from which it emerges again, as a vivid memory. The Finale opens with a serious Adagio, featuring thematic elements from previous movements. This is followed by an imposing Allegro composed of 23 variations of the agitated theme presented by the viola. These variations lead us to a tense and boisterous climax, Weinberg then taking the opposite path in a long diminuendo, a mirror shape that ends with the return of the original Adagio. The second movement of Quartet No. 7 has often been played as an encore by the Borodin Quartet.
Quartet No. 8, written two years later, is surprisingly balanced. It contrasts in its conciseness with the previous one. Shorter, the different episodes follow one another. The introductory Adagio is peaceful. The cello theme, supported by simple harmonies, once again reflects the meaning of Weinberg’s melody. Polyphony develops, revealing a recurring theme of a few notes, like an appeal, and an exacerbated lyricism gives way, for a moment, to the introspective atmosphere of the beginning. The Allegretto, with its playful main theme and more lyrical counter subject, takes us back to more popular idioms, interrupted by an obstinate Allegro. The quartet ends calmly, as it began.
Quartet No. 17 is one of Weinberg’s rare pieces that begins and ends in a positive atmosphere. The work is dedicated to the Borodin Quartet for their 40th anniversary. The movements follow one another, the first ending with a cello solo that recalls his 4th sonata for solo cello written the same year and dedicated to the cellist of the Valentin Berlinsky Quartet; this imprint remains noticeable in the second part – Andantino – which ends with the theme of the slow movement of the 2nd sonata for piano and cello (1958/59). In the large central section, numerous solos punctuate a narrative that does not seek a dialectical path. Finally, the final Allegro takes up the tempo of the first one. Those who are familiar with Weinberg’s language will have the impression that they have already heard this music, while listening to the quartet. Indeed, in his last creative period, the composer reworked some of his early works – 1st and 2nd quartets; in the first three chamber symphonies, he revisited quartets n° 2, 3 and 5 respectively. Many thanks to Mieczyslaw Weinberg who finishes his quartet cycle on a sunny major chord!