Mieczyslaw Weinberg Flute Concertos betray emotion

2019 marked the centenary of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s birth. There was a sudden outpouring of Weinberg releases. Some may be due to the centenary, but I like to think enough people have rediscovered his music to finally hit critical mass.

Weinberg was often characterized as a poor man’s Shostakovich. The two were close friends and colleagues, and their music does share some elements.

But Weinberg used those elements in a unique way, creating works that were in his own voice. That’s the case with the flute concertos on this release.

The Flute Concerto No. 1 is a jaunty little number. Its skipping melodies and odd meters give it a superficially light air. But there’s much more to this 1961 work.

One trait Weinberg does share with Shostakovich is repressed emotion. The concerto is quite tonal, and simple in structure. But played the right way — as it is in this recording — one can hear the sadness and frustration behind the facade.

Flutist Claudia Stein effectively brings out that undercurrent, especially in the middle movement. She mostly plays with a smooth warm tone. But she can also add a strident edge when necessary.

When Weinberg wrote his second flute concerto in 1987. The world had changed, and Weinberg had more freedom to write the music he felt. This work has a relaxed feel to it. Stein’s playing also seems to match the mood. It’s calm, assured, but mixed with a hint of nervous energy.

The release also includes Twelve Miniatures for Flute and Orchestra. Originally written in 1947, Weinberg revised the work in 1983. The original charm of these youthful works remains, albeit in a much more polished orchestral setting.

My understanding of Weinberg — and his dissimilarity to Shostakovich — grows with each new recording. This one adds appreciably to that understanding.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Flute Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
Claudia Stein, flute
Elisaveta Blumina, piano
Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra; David Robert Coleman, conductor

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