Classical home listening: Mieczyslaw Weinberg; Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass
The Polish composer’s work for cello and orchestra gets the fine recording it deserves, while the ‘September 1927’ version of Janáček’s mass is a must for fans.
• Top playing, a first-class recording, handsomely produced: the Polish composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-96) is at last being given his due, as a new disc proves beyond doubt. It features his works for cello and orchestra performed by Pieter Wispelwey (cello), Jean-Michel Charlier (clarinet) with Les Métamorphoses conducted by Raphaël Feye (Evil Penguin Classic).
The Cello Concertino (1948), melancholy, songlike, lightly scored, is immediately compelling. Found only recently, it shares material with the later Cello Concerto. Wispelwey plays with supple energy, keeping emotion in check in the lament at start and finish, the double-stopped chords clean and precise, the pizzicato warm and fluid. The Fantasy, a single movement with several sections, has folk-inspired, nostalgic charm. The Chamber Symphony No 4, Op 153, for string orchestra and clarinet, with a memorable Allegro full of klezmer-inspired punch, was the prolific composer’s last completed work.
As a companion piece listen, too, to the Arcadia Quartet’s new album, Weinberg: String Quartets Vol 2, Nos 1, 7 and 11 (Chandos).
• When a composer leaves more than one version of a work – Bruckner symphonies, famously – specialists may spend lifetimes poring over differences and debating final intentions. The innocent listener can be left worrying which is the “right” account. The answer, emphatically, is: whichever you prefer. In the case of Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, with origins dating back 20 years before the work appeared, the genesis is particularly complicated. The Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno, Orchestra philharmonique de Strasbourg, conductor Marko Letonja and soloists Malin Byström, Jennifer Johnston, Ladislav Elgr and Adam Plachetka (Warner Classics) have recorded the “September 1927” version.
The many detailed differences, especially relating to later cuts, and use of organ and timpani, are laid out in the liner notes. The climactic passage in the Svet (Sanctus) here has an almost unbearable tension, the high-lying vocal parts – for soloists and chorus alike – excellently and urgently handled. The effect of the organ solo before the final Intrada is spine-tingling. Any Janáček fan will want to hear this version, together with the disc’s other work, the ever-thrilling Sinfonietta.
• Catch this from the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester: Mark Elder conducts Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No 6 in E minor and A Sea Symphony (No 1), with Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha (soprano), Roderick Williams (baritone) and the Hallé Orchestra, Choir and Youth Choir. Radio 3 in Concert, BBC Sounds.
Photo: provided by The Guardian