Another noteworthy album of a formerly neglected Soviet figure

Wen-Sinn Yang, Tassilo Probst: Weinberg

The Strad Issue: December 2023

Description: Another noteworthy album of a formerly neglected Soviet figure

Musicians: Wen-Sinn Yang (cello) Tassilo Probst (violin) Jewish Chamber Orchestra Munich/Daniel Grossman

Works: Weinberg: Concertino for cello and string orchestra; Concertino for violin and string orchestra; Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes; Symphony no.7

Catalogue number: ONYX ONYX4237

Weinberg’s tragic life experiences are never far from the surface in his music, and the recently discovered Concertino for cello and strings (an earlier version of the Cello Concerto) is no exception. There is a sense of white-hot intensity to this work, written in four days in 1948, during one of the thorniest times for Soviet composers – the Zhdanov crisis that targeted Weinberg’s friend, Shostakovich. The opening movement teems with Hebraic lamentation; the ensuing Moderato espressivo is full of klezmer musical imagery and here the Jewish Chamber Orchestra under Daniel Grossman gets the accompanying rhythms and slight rawness of a folk band to perfection. Wen-Sinn Yang proves a highly accomplished exponent, although he perhaps misses the last word in nuance within the phrase that Pieter Wispelwey captures so poignantly. However, in the cadenza that opens the final movement, Yang really comes into his own, delineating the material convincingly and delivering a highly emotional return of the opening lament.

Tassilo Probst offers impressive subtlety in his phrasing of the Violin Concertino, in which he draws the listener into its reflective, wistful melodies. In the Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, premiered by David Oistrakh, he perfectly captures its folk elements, and again the orchestra brings an authentic timbre to the accompaniment. The Seventh Symphony features edgy Bach-like harpsichord interspersions within the stark contrapuntal material, depicted here with telling expression.