About the music:

"The delicate purity of the music points to an indestructible human substance" (Frankfurter Rundschau)

"From film and circus music to tragic grand opera, from simple melodies with easy accompaniments to complex twelve-tone music, he was a master of all forms, genres and stylistic directions. With virtuosity and elegance, but always judiciously and with balance, he used elements of Jewish, Polish, Russian and Moldavian folk music. He developed a very personal style with a clear, almost classical architecture. His melodic language – at times introverted and meditative-reflective, at other times full of effervescent joy of living – is particularly noted for its special richness." (Ulrike Patow in MGG, Vol. 17, p. 688ff)

Weinberg was a very modest person, and an extremely subtle and delicate composer: his music breathes a beauty and warmth that is seldom found among contemporary classical works; yet, upon hearing the music, one is also impressed by an intrinsic power, a certain tactile strength and a dynamic, forward-driving motion. Surely then, Weinberg is a composer of contrasts, a master, like his friend Shostakovich, of expressing the lighter and darker sides of life in a single, unified whole.

The remarkable and fascinating progression in Weinberg's music from his early Op. 5 and 8 piano sonatas, to his last Op. 153 chamber symphony, written over 50 years later, traces a composer developing from an already advanced, experimental musical vocabulary to the absorption of modern and post-modern tendencies, to a clear neo-classicism with beguiling grace, all the while never abandoning the melodic and tonal contours of each individual work. Harmonically and rhythmically complex, the music often mixes tender, plaintive lyricism and Jewish themes with stark, contrasting dissonances, to create a balance between tradition and modernity.

One feature that is prominent above others in many of Weinberg's works is a certain religious yearning, a soulfulness that makes some works (especially those for solo stringed instruments) resemble the intonation of a prayer, yet one which is approachable to everyone, regardless of background or personal beliefs. Themes and ideas dwelling on subjects such as suffering, love and faith are not uncommon, but there is also a characteristic, affirmative joy in life. Ideas centered on suffering feature prominently in so many works, no doubt due to the circumstances of the composer's difficult life and the hardships he had to endure during the wars of the 20th century. In this sense, there is an tremendous edifying quality to the music, combined with a trust and hope in something perennial and eminently human, capable of rising above all unfavourable conditions. It is in this way that Weinberg's music carries something resonantly Divine – a light going beyond all restrictions and challenges, and able to change the world for the better.

Copyright © 2002 – 2012 A.U./www.music-weinberg.net.

Reflections on selected works:

Below are some brief reflections on a number of Weinberg's musical pieces. They are not intended to be definitive in any way, or to give a musicological analysis of the works, but to convey a sense of the music and, maybe, some of its "meaning". Anyone reading this section is more than welcome to share their own reflections (see below). This can expand this page and show in just how many ways Weinberg's music can be experienced!

Below each reflection are some links to relevant media clips (pops in a new tab/window), recommended recordings and musical scores.

This sub-section was last modified: 8th of January 2012.

Piano sonatas 1, 2 (Opp. 5, 8): Early traits

Although he was a pianist (and quite a competent one at that) Weinberg's piano sonatas span only the early to middle periods of his career. In fact, sonatas Nos. 1 and 2 are among Weinberg's earliest works in any medium. Regardless of some influences from Prokofiev, mainly in the second movement of the first sonata, they still manage to carry a distinct and personal voice that can be heard relatively easily. When one abstracts away from any exterior similarities, it is possible to hear how the sonatas reveal a very unique and powerful message, expressed again and again, in different ways, in works written decades later: the message of suffering with Love. In these early works one can also discern Weinberg's idiosyncratic treatment of polyphonic textures, most vividly in the early Op. 5 sonata's third movement. This complex polyphony is a pervasive feature of many of Weinberg's works, even his last chamber symphonies.

While perhaps not entirely "vintage Weinberg", these sonatas are still some of the most moving modern piano works, which is quite an achievement given the composer's young age when he wrote them.

(Listen on youtube.com) (Recommended recordings) (Musical scores)

Piano sonatas 3 - 6 (Opp. 31, 56, 58, 73): A geometric harmony

In his later piano sonatas, Weinberg shakes away his early influences to reveal his own voice in full, at times imbuing the works with a quartet-like sonority. This is especially true in the first movement of sonata No. 3, and the last movement of sonata No. 4. One can easily venture to say that these late sonatas are geometrically structured – like much of Weinberg's later music – showing a balance between suffering and joy, tranquility and turmoil. The slow movements of both sonatas, still and introspective, seem to speak of solitude and sublime trust. It cannot be doubted that Weinberg was a man of deeply personal faith, which shines in his music to give solace and comfort.

The fifth and sixth sonatas are especially beautiful works. In their individual style they can be described as "supermatist", but not in a dry, abstract sense. The tones seem to become like different sized squares, overlayed by smaller forms in a multitude of layers, emanating out in space and time; but all the same there is real warmth, fervour and devotion with a throughly humanist message.

(Listen on youtube.com) (Recommended recordings) (Musical scores)

Solo cello sonatas 1 - 4 (Opp. 72, 86, 106, 140): Expressivity

The solo cello sonatas are among Weinberg's best chamber pieces. Profound and contrapuntally complex, their yearning lines and vivid contrasts of high and low tones seem to recreate all the variations of several colours. Listening to the works, one has the impression that the tones refract through a prism to create a myriad of luminous forms, all with darker and lighter parts. Every single sonata is undoubtedly a masterpiece in its own way, from the soulful No. 1, to the modernistic-dodecaphonic No. 4. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say they stand good comparison with the solo cello suites of J.S. Bach and Max Reger as some of the most significant music written for the instrument.

(Listen on youtube.com) (Recommended recordings) (Musical scores)

String quartets 7 - 9 (Opp. 59, 66, 80): Personal reflection and consolation

Weinberg's quartets as a whole, like those of Shostakovich to which they bear comparison in terms of quality and quantity, are personal, individual works. While in the symphonic form Weinberg expresses large-scale, monumental ideas and experiences, the quartets carry his own, one could say existential reflections. They are not a harrowing document of the troubled times during the wars of the last century, but personal statements of courage in the face of inner turmoil; of compassion amid carelesness and harshness; and of an earnest, religious search for freedom and something higher that helps everyone alike cope with the difficulties of life. Below are some excerpts from musical reviews and articles praising quartets 7, 8 and 9 in particular.

(Listen on youtube.com) (Recommended recordings) (Musical scores for Nos. 1-12,16,17; and for Nos. 13-15)

In one of the finest examples of a label's dedication [...] Olympia has released Volume 17 in its traversal of the works of Mieczyslaw Vainberg (1919-1996) [...] This CD contains Vainberg's Quartets Nos. 7, 8, and 9. There is only one quartet cycle that comes close to Vainberg's accomplishments in this genre, and that is Shostakovitch's. If you think that is an exaggeration, Shostakovitch did not. He regarded Vainberg as his peer and playfully alluded to a "race" that he and Vainberg were running to see who could write the most quartets. If you admire Shostakovitch's quartets, these are works you should also explore [...] Then turn to some of the incomparable orchestral music in the other volumes in this great series (with guidance from my February 2000 column about this neglected maestro [included in the Biography 1 part of these pages]).
From [1] Crisis Magazine Jan 2002, Music: No End of Odds and Ends, Robert R. Reilly
(http://www.crisismagazine.com/january2002/music.htm)
These three quartets, written between 1957 and 1964, are all the proof you could ask for, if proof you still require, of the individuality and depth of Weinberg's genius...
From March/April 2001 issue of the Fanfare, USA Magazine, Martin Anderson, Obtained from:
(http://www.newmusicon.org/v9n1/v91cds.htm)

Symphony 10 (Op. 98): Transcendence

Symphony No. 10 for strings from 1968 is one of Weinberg's masterpieces in the larger-scale symphonic genre. The skill with which it is constructed is exquisite: from the beginning series of parallel chords – the impression of which is a monolithic cathedral of sound – to the multi-layered, faceted counterpoint of the 4th movement, the whole symphony is a concentrated, polyphonic cosmos of red and gold colours. The effect is often simply breathtaking; at moments one feels as though the music is breaking the barriers of space, and filling every point of space at the same time – in a sense transcending to what the Greek philosopher Plotinus describes as Eternity: "the announcement of the Identity in the Divine".

Weinberg's 10th Symphony is a truly major achievement of contemporary music, standing next to Einojuhani Rautavaara's 7th Symphony "Angel of Light" from 1994, and Olivier Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony from 1948.

(Listen [mp3] from www.fenterp.net) (Recommended recordings) (Musical score)

Chamber symphony 2 (Op. 147): Intensity and contrast

Weinberg's late chamber symphonies turn to his youth and away from the harsher modernist tendencies to a lighter, more graceful neo-classical language. Nevertheless, moments of intensity still abound, and Weinberg's 2nd chamber symphony from the 1990's is one of the composer's most intense essays in the genre – especially with regard to the first movement. The allegro molto propels the whole orchestra forward with bright, bold colours, after which the second movement takes up, and, so to speak, diffuses them, using both Russian and Jewish motifs. The third movement, varying the first, is contemplative yet majestic and poignant, turning more and more towards silence and solitude until the majesty and dynamics of the first movement fade away into the distance – not without ending with a sharp, abrupt splash of colour. Propulsive motion, dynamism and quiet, serene rest – the work is one of contrast and rhetoric, a prominent feature of Weinberg's language.

(Listen on youtube.com) (Recommended recordings) (Musical scores)

Artistic fusion

Below are several paintings by the Australian artist Annael (Anelia Pavlova), who creates her works to classical music. Annael's art is a fascinating mix of the traditional and contemporary, and very relevant because of its connection with the music of different composers, where Weinberg features prominently. Permission to reproduce some of these unique works has been granted by the artist, adding visual impressions to the reflections above.

24 Solo Cello Preludes (Op. 100)

Annael's painting to Weinberg's preludes for solo cello

"Moishei Vainberg, Works for Solo Cello"

Image(s) Copyright © Annael (Anelia Pavlova)
The image(s) cannot be reproduced without the consent of the copyright holder
(Image courtesy of TVH Gallery, Sydney, with kind permission from the artist)

(Listen on youtube.com) (Recommended recordings) (Musical score)

Cello Sonatas 1 & 2 (Opp. 21, 63)

Annael's painting to Weinberg's cello sonatas 1 & 2

"Capricorn"

Image(s) Copyright © Annael (Anelia Pavlova)
The image(s) cannot be reproduced without the consent of the copyright holder
(Image courtesy of the artist)

(Listen on youtube.com) (Recommended recordings) (Musical scores)

Symphony 19, Chamber Symphony 3 (Opp. 142, 151)

Annael's painting to Weinberg's symphony 19 and chamber symphony 3

"Forest Fairytale"

Image(s) Copyright © Annael (Anelia Pavlova)
The image(s) cannot be reproduced without the consent of the copyright holder
(Thanks to TVH Gallery, Sydney; Image provided with kind permission from the artist)

(Listen [mp3] from www.fenterp.net) (Recommended recordings) (Musical scores)

Symphony 7 (Op. 81)

Annael's painting to Weinberg's symphony 7

"Symphony Nr. 7"

Image(s) Copyright © Annael (Anelia Pavlova)
The image(s) cannot be reproduced without the consent of the copyright holder
(Image courtesy of the artist)

(Listen on youtube.com) (Recommended recordings) (Musical score)

Musical scores:

Scores or sheet music can be obtained from several publishers, among them:

In all cases one can search the correct spelling of the composer's name "Weinberg" to obtain the required results.

Sharing reflections, information on scores:

What is your take on the music? A forum is a planned addition to this site, but in the meanwhile, if you would like to share your opinions and reflections on Weinberg's works with others, please write to mail@music-weinberg.net and your view can be added. Sharing of information regarding additional sources musical scores not already noted in the sub-section above is also highly appreciated.

Score excerpt from Weinberg's first cello solo sonata

Excerpt from Weinberg's Cello Solo Sonata No. 1, © Peermusic (Germany) GmbH


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