ConcertosMieczysław Weinberg: Concertos

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Chandos SA-CD

Fantasia for Cello and Orchestra, Claes Gunnarsson, cello
Concerto No. 2 for Flute and Orchestra, Concerto for Flute and String Orchestra, Anders Jonhí¤ll, flute
Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, Urban Claesson, clarinet
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Thord Svedlund, conductor

These four concerti, all pristinely performed and recorded, are each full of passionate energy, be it somber and morose or playful and skippy. The language of each piece fits comfortably within the composer’s world of mid-20th century Russia. The overall musical style is a mixture of Shostakovich and Bartok. There are some slight allusions to Jewish folk music as well.

The Fantasia for cello and orchestra starts with low, rich string tones and a serious, achingly beautiful melody in the cello. Claes Gunnarsson seems to draw heartbreak from each note. When things speed up, the dance feeling is infectious and I cannot sit still when I listen to it. The slower, somber mood returns at the end for a plaintive and serene close.

Both of the flute concerti contain the same sweet and sorrow moods found in the Fantasia. In this premiere recording of the second concerto, the first movement is rather understated. There are some flute fireworks, but the general tone of the piece is subdued. The Largo movement is restless and troubled. You can tell that the flute wants to be serene, but a darkness permeates the movement and keeps the lyrical soloist in slightly disturbed places. The final movement seems to cast this darkness aside and revel in a playful dance. Again, my feet can’t keep still during this final movement.

The Concerto for Flute and Strings (aka Concerto No. 1), is frenetic with energy and drive. In the first movement, the flute is a force to be reckoned with, constantly pushing the string orchestra forward. This Largo movement is much simpler in texture than the as the slow movement of the Concerto No. 2. The flute is the clear dominant voice, but again Anders Jonhí¤ll is playing a dark and mournful tune. The work finishes off with another dance-inspired movement, ending with a rather abrupt and frantic push.

The Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, also receiving its premiere recording, follows many of the other concerti’s patterns. The first movement is slightly aggressive with the soloist pushing the ensemble forward. The middle movement is slow and lyrical, but this time the clarinet seems to be in a much more contemplative space. There is less darkness surrounding the melody here. The ending movement is playful, skittering, and rhythmic. Urban Claesson sounds great throughout the work.

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