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Best Recordings of 2010 (# 8)

This continues the “Best Recordings of 2010” countdown. No.10 can be found here, No. 9 here. The lists from the previous years: 2009, (2009 – “Almost”), 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 8 - New Release

Weinberg, Viola Sonatas, Julia Rebekka Adler, Jascha Nemtsov, NEOS 11008

available at AmazonM.Weinberg, Viola Sonatas,
J.R.Adler, J.Nemtsov
NEOS 11008
Among the neglected composers that are being slowly resuscitated on record and (more slowly, still) in performance, Mieczysław Weinberg (alternatively Moisey Vainberg or Moishe Vaynberg, though either of those versions are not widely used anymore) is kind of a hot item. His symphonies are being recorded by Chandos—and as soon as their cycle is finished, Naxos will take a crack at it with Antoni Wit. CPO has brought us most of the string quartets, and Weinberg’s most famous work—the Piano Quintet—has always been around in some form. Most famously with Sviatoslav Richter and the Borodin Quartet (on Melodiya) and most recently by the ARC Ensemble (on RCA).

When I introduce his music to ears unfamiliar with it, I quip that Weinberg is just like his buddy Shostakovich. But without the smile. Given his biography (more about Weinberg—hopefully—in a series of future articles on WETA), that pervading darkness is readily understandable. It isn’t quite so understandable why it took so long for the incredible quality of his music to take a hold with performers. The Solo Viola Sonatas and the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in its transcription for viola on this disc are all world premiere recordings, some of them hadn’t even been published before.

When you hear Weinberg’s forcefully dark music, making some Shostakovich sound like merry-go-round ditties, the superficial contrast between artist and music becomes striking. Julia Rebekka Adler is a delicate (though not dainty) pale redhead, barely 30, with an intriguing combination of seriousness and maturity and a strong streak of retained girlishness. She doesn’t at all conform to what you might imagine a natural fit for tearing violently through those solo sonatas for viola. When she recorded them, visibly pregnant, the contrast was downright provocative. “I’ve never liked these clichés about pregnancy,” Adler admits, and needles (because she is incapable of truly ranting) against “silly romantic ideals and the kitsch about pregnancy; little flowers, white chiffon, and strawberry ice cream.” So she performed—in her second trimester—a Weinberg recital titled The Horror of War and Persecution to a room of uncomfortably scandalized listeners who could not get the visual in sync with what they were hearing. Weinberg would be, our prejudice tells us, anti-pregnancy music. Well, in this case, it worked out terrifically.

Tommy Persson, a longtime friend of Weinberg, responded to this CD with much praise, culminating in, “I’m simply overwhelmed by [her] very brilliant playing and great understanding of Weinberg’s music … a most important contribution to the growing Weinberg discography.” The performance, though not as emotional and riveting as it could be (I’ve heard better from her, since, live) is world-class, and nothing less. “Our best violist, one of our best musicians” volunteered one of the more musical members of the Munich Philharmonic’s administration to me just yesterday (also reflecting Christian Thielemann’s opinion)… adding in a cynical aside “…so we’ll probably lose her.” Well… as long as she won’t be lost to the cause of Weinberg, which she champions so splendidly.

# 8 – Reissue

Bach, Brandenburg Concertos, Jordi Savall / Le Concert des Nations, AliaVox SACD 7561

available at AmazonJ.S.Bach, Brandenburg Concertos,
J.Savall / Le Concert des Nations
AliaVox SACD 7561
Alia Vox—the label of Jordi Savall where his gratifying flights of musical fancy are allowed to roam free—doesn’t just issue his new projects and recordings, it also re-issuing old recordings on naïve, re-configured as SACDs. Among them recently his recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. This isn’t so much noteworthy for the re-mixed SACD part, but the fact that the interpretation is a rare treat that desperately needed re-issuing in some, any, form. Stylistically it is comparable to Richard Egarr’s recording on Harmonia Mundi (review here); not all-out wild and crazy, nor out for speed-records… but with a soft-grained flexibility and oodles of musicality. One of my absolute favorite choices for the Brandenburgs.

-> Best Recordings of 2010 #1
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #2
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #3
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #4
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #5
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #6
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #7
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #9
-> Best Recordings of 2010 #10

1 comment:

cnb said...

The recordings of Weinberg's string quartets on CPO have thoroughly impressed me, as did the set of his cello sonatas issued (on BIS) a year or two ago. This is the first I have heard of this set of viola sonatas, and I will certainly track them down.