PALACE OF THE ACADEMIES
Piano Trio op. 24 (1945)
Präludium und Arie. Larghetto – Toccata. Allegro marcato – Poem. Moderato – Finale. Allegro moderato
Quintet for piano and strings op. 18 (1944)
Moderato con moto – Allegretto – Presto – Largo – Allegro agitato
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Two works of exceptional vitality written by a young composer, an exceptional pianist, who had, not long before, become a close friend of Shostakovich.
A mark of respect from Weinberg to his elder, the Trio op 24 begins with a masterful neoclassical Prelude. The Toccata with its exhilarating speed, the Poem of a dreamy lyricism, the Finale with its multiple characters: 4 unique movements creating an astonishing unity.
The Quintet op 18 testifies to Weinberg’s creative power. Serene melodies, naive marches, old-fashioned refrains, cabaret waltzes, Irish jigs, driving round dances… these ingenious elements are skilfully orchestrated and interwoven, and the five movements are always very convincing to the listener.
The Trio op 24 and the Quintet op 18 are undoubtedly two major works written for these ensembles. The friendship between Weinberg and Shostakovich is still relatively young, and the mutual influence between the young composer and the one he considers his mentor is already evident. Wanting to encourage the younger generation of Soviet musicians to devote themselves to chamber music, Shostakovich himself wrote a quintet in 1940 and a piano trio in 1944. The Trio op 24 was premiered by the composer at the piano, with two members of the Beethoven Quartet, who also performed the premiere of Shostakovich’s trio. A recording of the Quintet op 18 with the Borodin Quartet and Weinberg at the piano is a reference. One thing is certain: Mieczyslaw Weinberg was an exceptional pianist.
The first movement of the Trio op 24, like the quintet of its predecessor, opens with a monumental neo-classical Prelude that continues with a confidential Aria where Weinberg shows a very personal inspiration. The Toccata, with its tremendous energy, presents a great rhythmic complexity due to the overlapping of music of different pulsations, sometimes asymmetrical. The dance theme, first exposed by the violin, cannot escape the ostinato imposed in the first bars by the piano. The Poem begins with a recitative stated by the piano, followed by a lyrical and melancholic theme by the cello, supported by the violin’s pizzicatos. When, towards the end of the movement, this same theme is exposed by the violin, with the cello accompanying it, the writing still recalls that of Shostakovich’s quintet – 4th movement: Intermezzo. The Finale is initially presented as a variation on the melody played by the piano in the first bars, sometimes interrupted by a fast figure of the violin. A wild fugue, played in a “forte” dynamic for 300 bars, leads to the climax of the movement with the return of the theme of the Prelude played in extreme nuances. A slightly awkward waltz releases the accumulated tension, and the end of the movement, in the restored calm character, evokes, not by its themes but by the atmosphere, the end of Shostakovich’s trio written one year earlier.
The Quintet op 18 is a work of art that stands out by its proportions. It testifies to the creative power of Weinberg, then 25 years old, considering that in the same year he wrote his 3rd quartet, his 2nd violin sonata, two brilliant “Cahiers de Notes pour enfant” op 16 & 19, and 16 pieces for solo piano that he dedicated to his daughter Victoria. The first movement is built on two ideas: a serene and luminous melody introduced by the piano and a childish march played first by the violin. These two elements meet and collide in a dramatic progression to reach a disorganized climax. Weinberg brings the five instruments together in a more uniform writing before finishing the movement as the sound disappears progressively. The next Allegretto begins with a small refrain played in unison by the strings, followed directly by a hectic cadenza of the piano, built on trills, and which sets the tone for the movement: vivacity, freedom, ruptures and agreements. The Presto opposes the discontinuous and veiled theme of the strings with the transparency of the piano. A waltz worthy of a cabaret and a tango rhythm complete the thematic material. The writing plays with these contradictions, linking and whimsically mixing the various elements exposed. The Largo is the longest of the five movements. Its introduction, with a “unison” of more than a minute and a half, is disturbing, and the first harmonies and the abrupt intervention of the violin in the high register release us from the tension generated by this surprising writing. A few comments by the strings, in a gloomy atmosphere, give way to a long piano cadenza, brought to an end by the cello, joined by the other strings, which then “converse” over the cello’s statement, bringing the music to a fullness rarely heard by only five instruments. The recall of the pizzicato theme heralds the end of a movement of an exceptionally theatrical construction. And it is with an accomplished mastery that Weinberg releases us from the tension of this movement in the final Allegro Agitato. A stubborn and driven round dance precedes a popular dance with Irish accents, over which the piano sometimes laughs. Reminiscences of previous movements, repetition of the motives of the beginning of the movement, it is in the last quarter of this movement that the music finds a more reasonable structure, and the return of the first theme of the movement, progressively softer, gives us a strange impression of a gradual receding of the music.