MIECZYSŁAW WEINBERG (1919-1996): The Idiot.
Catalogue Number: 11R011
Label: Pan Classics
Reference: PC 10328
Description: As more and more of Weinberg's large output becomes widely available it becomes increasingly apparent that he ranks in the very highest tier of Soviet composers of the 20th century along with such towering figures and household names as Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Khachaturian. The relationship with Shostakovich becomes more apparently that of two kindred spirits, a meeting of equals rather than a master and pupil dynamic, and while the younger Weinberg undeniably took great impetus from his first encounters with his friend, mentor and sometime protector's music (a fact that he gratefully acknowledged), he forged a wholly individual voice from an early stage, inflected by his Polish, Jewish and Moldavian heritage, less cryptic than Shostakovich but no less capable of expressing profound, emotionally shattering ideas. His opera on Dostoyevsky's masterful, complex and sprawling novel, expertly condensed by Weinberg's librettist Alexander Medvedev, was his last, written in the mid-1980s and not performed in its full version until this production in 2013. The music is unfailingly impressive throughout, tonal and never experimental, but always original. Dostoyevsky's tale of Prince Mishkin, a kind of 'holy fool' who returns to St Petersburg where his naive, compassionate nature is sharply at odds with everybody else's tortured cynicism and ends up with tragic results, is told in sharply characterized and detailed music, powerful, serious and dark. Weinberg uses leitmotifs - subtly but memorably, providing an additional level of cohesion to the work by invoking characters when mentioned but not part of the ensemble currently singing, for instance. The Shostakovich element is present - there are passages reminiscent of, and worthy of, 'Lady Macbeth', but some gloriously Romantic passages have a sustained Mahlerian autumnal opulence and a similar gift for heart-rending melody, and Weinberg knew his European modernism; there is brass and percussion writing in particular that recalls B.A. Zimmermann, while the composer's prolific skill in lighter idioms (by which he made much of his living, but which generally don't find their way into his 'serious' music) are there to be called on when necessary in the popular ballad sung by the Mephistophelean Lebedev at the beginning of scene 4. A masterpiece which may well come to be acknowledged as one of the major operas of the twentieth century. 3 CDs. Russian (Cyrillic)-English libretto.