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Weinberg, what is his music like?

Flute repertoire becomes unquestionably vast and rich starting in the 20th century, with some real musical gems from that period often winning a place in recital programs. So when you go to a flute recital, you shouldn’t be surprised if you find several pieces or composers that you haven’t heard of making a strong impression on you.

The ‘12 Miniatures’ by Weinberg were a recent discovery for me too; these twelve short movements, and the extremely versatile characters and deep emotions Weinberg represents in them, really captured my attention. Ever since my first performance of the cycle last May in the Solti Hall of Budapest’s Liszt Academy of Music, I find myself thinking of these little character pieces, with their musical nuances, and wondering over and over what their different atmospheres represent and what I as a player may convey through their melodies.

Mieczyslav Weinberg was born in 1919 in Warsaw to a Jewish family, and at a young age, was already playing in the Warsaw Jewish Theatre alongside his father. He went on to study composition in Minsk, and after being evacuated from Minsk to Tashkent, finally moved to Moscow with the help of his friend and contemporary, Shostakovich. Weinberg lost his whole family in the Second World War; his parents and sister were killed by the Nazis.

The Twelve Miniatures were completed in December 1945, just a few months after the war ended. This was a striking piece of information for me, as I found so many of the miniatures extremely sensitive and full of wit, most of the time not even melancholic. I often wondered how Weinberg managed to write with such elaborate musical language, knowing what inconceivable life circumstances he was going through at the time. Each movement is very carefully composed, and the more I play them, the more I realize how they come together to form a very rich and full whole cycle – each of them fits together like a perfect puzzle.

Above all, the fifth movement, Nocturne, has become very special to me: it comes after the martial and sweeping fourth movement, the Capriccio, and before the Walzer, a piece that, to me, recalls much of Shostakovich’s style. Contrary to these two, Nocturne, is one of the more delicate and emotional movements from the twelve. Its simple melodies and transparency constantly remind me of how important it is to find one’s integrity in difficult life situations, to see what a person can embody through her actions.

The title, which suggests an evocation of the night, inspired me to visualize this intangible interpretation, and the resulting illustration has now become part of my Noemi Collection. You can see it on the Nocturne Phone case, by clicking here.

Listen to Nocturnes below and click here for some more Weinberg.

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