The Silesian Quartet’s Weinberg Cycle Continues

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

It’s easy to hear why Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s assured compositional technique and basically dry and grim style appealed to his friend and older colleague Shostakovich, and indeed, the sound worlds of Weinberg’s String Quartets 11, 12, and 13 fall very much in line with the terseness and bleakness characterizing Shostakovich’s later works in this genre. But Weinberg goes his own way.

Three out of the Eleventh quartet’s four movements center around repeated-note phrases that imitate one another or collide in either conflict or cahoots. The Andante semplice, by contrast, features haunting solo lines and threadbare two-part counterpoint. Certain textures throughout Weinberg’s Twelfth quartet are redolent of Bartók’s Third: the slow moving col legno chords with pitches in close proximity, and the Presto’s slashing solo lines followed by chordal punctuations, to give two examples. The long moderato finale reaches its climax early on in the movement, while patches of rhythmic variety help sustain the quiet bleakness hovering over the last six of the movement’s 11 minutes.

The single movement, 13-and-a-half-minute Thirteenth quartet showcases Weinberg’s salient qualities in relatively compressed form, from long solo threnodies and gnawing imitative writing to angular, slashing gestures that rear their heads at unpredictable moments.

In every respect, the Silesian Quartet equals CPO’s Quatour Danel for ensemble finesse and a genuine sympathy for Weinberg’s idiom. There are marked interpretive differences from time to time, yet they honestly matter little. For instance, the Danel musicians are better able to sustain the softer dynamics in No. 11’s first movement, yet the Silesian Quartet’s faster tempo paints the music in a lighter complexion, so to speak. In short, this third installment of the Silesian Quartet’s Weinberg survey bodes well for the cycle’s remaining volumes, and upholds this ensemble’s reputation as one of the finest European quartets who champion 20th-century music and beyond.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one; Quatour Danel (CPO)

    String Quartet No. 11 Op. 89 (1965); String Quartet No. 12 Op. 103 (1969-70); String Quartet No. 13 Op. 118 (1977)

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