DEFINITIVE RECORDINGS
MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG - CONCERTOS


MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG - CONCERTOS - CLAES GUNNARSSON (Cello) - ANDERS JONHÄLL (Flute) - URBAN CLAESSON (Clarinet) - THORD SVEDLUND (Conductor) - GOTHENBURG SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA - CHANDOS SACD CHSA5064

Nothing but praise of the highest order for this wonderful new disc of some of the concertante works from Weinberg, including two premiere recordings.

The first work on the disc is the haunting Fantasia for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 52, written in the early 1950s, a period when Soviet composers were called upon to write "tuneful" and more pleasant music. After a typically dark, ominous and brooding intro ā la Weinberg, the cello makes it's initial entry with "tuneful" and pleasant music. In fact, a more beautiful and fluid cello melody would be hard to find. The whole work is full of brilliant discourse and interplay between the soloist and orchestra, the cello always leading the way, but remaining an integral part of the music's fabric. The piece goes through interesting and varied developments, and returns at the end to finish the way it began, quietly and peacefully. The soloist in this work, Claes Gunnarsson, plays with a beautiful singing tone, and always projects the right emotion within the music.

This is followed by one of the world premiere pieces, the Concerto No. 2 for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 148, written in 1987. The style here is definitely more relaxed, gentle, dance-like and classical in form. There are even some subtle quotations from famous flute pieces, including the "Badinerie" from Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 2. This could be seen as a tip of the hat to Bach's genius, or recognition of all the times flautists would have had to play pieces like these to master their instrument. A lighter work compared to the Cello Fantasia, but you can still hear and feel Weinberg's tragic nature lurking in the background.

The Concerto No. 1 for Flute and Strings, Op. 75 is next. Written in 1961, it makes greater demands on the player with more rapid, folk-inspired segments, followed by slower moments displaying the beautiful dark tones of the lower register of the flute. In both of these wonderful flute concertos, Anders Jonhäll shines with a constantly versatile use of the flute's character, based on the music at hand.

The disc closes with the Concerto for Clarinet, Op. 104, from 1970. This is the other world premiere recording on this remarkable cd. Weinberg had an affinity for the clarinet, and the writing for the instrument in this work makes that perfectly clear. It requires quick and nimble playing by Urban Claesson, who delivers all that with aplomb, but who also plays with the appropriate melancholy and sadness in the beautiful slow movement.

All in all a great disc, full of first class interpretations, all masterfully conducted by Thord Svedlund, who did in fact conduct the first performance of the 2nd Flute Concerto outside of Russia, in 2001. The Chandos recording always captures the perfect balance between the soloists and the orchestra, making the whole listening experience a pleasure.

The Concerto is considered by some to be the best form or type of composition, because of it's contrasts between soloist and full orchestra, and it's demands on the instrumentalist. This recording meets those requirements very well and displays Weinberg's genius to boot!

Jean-Yves Duperron