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New video cartoon: the grievous life of a Soviet composer

Mieczyslaw Weinberg was the composer who was closest to Dmitri Shostakovich in every sense – friendship, style, adjoining apartments. Weinberg’s music is steadily gaining recognition, but his life story remains obscure. Canada’s Arc ensemble attempts to piece it together in an animated film, just posted on Youtube. You view it here first.


Director James Murdoch, illustrations by Thomas Dannenberg. Image courtesy Toccata Classics

Weinberg’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano will be performed by ARC Ensemble at the Wigmore Hall, London, next Sunday. Click here.

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  1. Superb! Thank you so much for posting this. I do not know any of Weinberg’s works and am about to go and put that right!

    Thank you again!

  2. Excellent. An amazing story in under 8 minutes,

  3. Norman, thank you for posting this. I hope we will begin to hear more of Weinberg’s work and his story will be more widely disseminated.

  4. The ARC (Artists for the Royal Conservatory) Ensemble is a fantastic group! Can’t wait to hear them at Wigmore Hall on March 10, 2013 at 7:30pm! Here’s the link – they’re performing Weinberg, Laks, Mendelssohn (completed by ARC pianist David Louie), and Ben Haim

  5. David Pountney says:

    Very nice animation. Have a look at the NEOS CD catalogue: it contains 5 volumes of Weinberg, including his Opera The Passenger – all recordings taken from the 2010 Bregenz festival which featured 23 works by Weinberg! There is also a recent recording of the 8th Symphony which is very fine. The Passenger will be performed in Houston at the beginning of next year, and go to the Lincoln Centre Festival, and there is also a new production of it coming up in Karlsruhe this spring, as well as his opera based on The Idiot in Mannheim.

    • Stuard Young says:

      Thak you very much, David for this update on recordings of the music of “Vainberg” (another spelling record companies use). I got the bug about his music with the firs offering of his Symphony 4 and Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes by Chandos. Since then, I have collected all the Chandos offerings, and the string quartets on CPO. How can such a good composer be virtually unknown in the US? It is great to know that The Passenger is coming to Lincoln Center. Can’t wait! Thank you again.

  6. Calling him a “Soviet composer” may be correct, since after leaving Poland as a teenager, he spent almost the entirety of his adulthood in Soviet Union, although he did fortunately outlive that empire by a few years and ended his life in a smaller one (Russia or Russian Federation). However, taken all this into consideration, it feels awfully odd, and possibly even wrong, to use “Mieczyslaw” as his first name. As a composer, he was never known by that name, certainly not to his compatriots. His first name was Moisey (Моисей in Russian) or Moisey Samuilovich (Моисей Самуилович) in full with patronymic. He used that name and was known by it throughout his entire composing career. As for his last name (Вайнберг), Vineberg would probably be the best transliteration of it for English speakers because that would approximate the Russian pronunciation most closely. In German, Weinberg sounds just about right.

    • David Pountney says:

      Have to disagree with you quite vehemently!! Weinberg was given the name Moshe by the Soviet border guard who let him in after Weinberg had fled on foot from the invading Nazis. The guard obviously could not be bothered with the spelling of Mieczyslaw, which is perhaps understandable. However it is profoundly symbolic that the first consequence of his enforced exile was the loss of his name, and therefore a part of his identity, swiftly followed of course by the obliteration of his entire family.
      The key thing is however that Weinberg himself spent 40 years fighting bureaucracy to get his name back, and we should respect his wishes.
      There is no question however about his surname which is a Polish/Jewish name, which was then transliterated into Cyrillic – there is no need for US to transliterate it because it was always Weinberg – in Polish!

  7. arrg… geoblocked here in Germany! :(

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