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Home Culture The Danel Quartet tells the vital and human chronicle of the survivor Mieczysław Weinberg | Culture

The Danel Quartet tells the vital and human chronicle of the survivor Mieczysław Weinberg | Culture

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“It was easy to die in those days.” The composer Mieczysław Weinberg (Warsaw, 1919 – Moscow, 1996) recognizes this in the story of his anguishing and traumatic escape from Warsaw, in September 1939, after the Nazi invasion. There he left his parents and his sister, who were deported and died, four years later, in the Trawniki concentration camp. There were 17 days in which he walked to Minsk under bullets, without food or drink. And he witnessed constant displays of humiliation and savagery by the Nazis, such as when an SS soldier shattered the skull of an elderly Jewish man with the butt of his rifle while forcing another to swallow part of the brains that had been scattered all over the place. floor.

But, far from capturing these atrocities in his music, the Quartet no. 2, which began in 1939, after settling in the Belarusian capital, opens with a beautiful and idyllic theme in G major. We confirmed this on Wednesday, March 13, in the first of the five recitals of the Danel Quartet, at the Juan March Foundation, where you can hear, for the first time in Spain, the entirety of the 17 quartets of the composer who forged a triple Polish identity. -Jewish-Soviet, as explained by its top specialist, David Fanning, in the extensive program that includes numerous unpublished photos provided by Olga Rajalskaia, Weinberg’s widow. A cycle proposed in parallel to the recent Spanish premiere of his opera The passengerat the Royal Theater.

Perhaps there is no better vital and human chronicle of Weinberg than listening to all his string quartets. A corpus of wonderful music that adds up to an enormous production with 26 symphonies, six concerts, seven operas, three ballets, five cantatas, some 30 sonatas and more than 200 songs (not counting his more than 60 soundtracks or his scores for the theater, radio and circus), which is being discovered internationally in the last three decades. But the string quartet is the only genre that spans his entire creative life, from 1937 to 1986, despite two brief lapses. The first was motivated by Stalin’s anti-Semitic persecution, starting in 1948, which led him to prison, and the second, in the seventies, is related to his greater dedication to writing operas.

Violist Vlad Bogdanas of the Danel Quartet, during the recital on March 13 in Madrid.Alfredo Casasola/Juan March Foundation Archive

The Danel Quartet was the first to record an integral of the Weinberg quartets, between 2006 and 2009 (CPO). Currently there is a second complete recording, by the Silesian Quartet (CD Accord), and another in progress, by the Arcadia Quartet (Chandos). But the Franco-Belgian ensemble was a pioneer in bringing together all of Weinberg’s scores for that group. His first violinist, Marc Danel, acknowledged this to EL PAÍS yesterday, since after the composer’s death, in February 1996, he visited his widow in Moscow. He was missing quartets nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5, and she lent him the composer’s original autographs so he could photocopy them. “Suddenly I found myself in the Moscow subway with the unique sources of four Weinberg quartets,” the terrified violinist commented.

Three of those quartets were performed yesterday at the Juan March Foundation. A recital that opened with the youth Quartet no. 1 in C major, op. 2 , which Weinberg wrote in Warsaw, in 1937. It is his first important composition, the manuscript of which he took with him on his aforementioned odyssey to Minsk fleeing the Nazis. A work greatly influenced by Bartók and Szymanowski that the composer revised, in 1985, directly in his autograph and gave it another catalog number: op. 141. “There are changes, but to me it is very similar to the original. And the genius of the composer was already in the first version,” violinist Marc Danel acknowledged yesterday. His performance leading the Danel Quartet did not quite convey the anxiety of those youthful staves so full of chromaticism and densely contrapuntal. The nocturnal one sounded more interesting calm walker and, even better, the obsessive finale with that Jewish ethnicity that would later influence Shostakovich so much.

He continued, before the break, Quartet no. 2 in G major, op. 3 written in Minsk and with that aforementioned beginning in a world without anxieties or obsessions. The composer’s terrible experiences led him to put aside the congestion of his first quartet and seek a freer and more lyrical flow. But the captivating neoclassical first movement, which sounded in the March with more agility than transparency, gave way to a andante and a allegretto where the tensions experienced lurked. However, we heard the first musical flash of the night in the extrovert presto final. This is another score that Weinberg revised, in 1986, and even redid as his Chamber Symphony No. 1, op. 145but where it is easy to recognize the influence it had on Shostakovich and, especially, on his quartets no. 2 y no. 6.

Cellist Yovan Markovicth of the Danel Quartet, in Madrid.Alfredo Casasola/Juan March Foundation Archive

The best of the night was heard in the second half. The Danels started with an exceptional performance of the Quartet no. 3 in D minor, op. 14, a composition that Weinberg wrote in Tashkent, in 1944, where he was evacuated from Minsk during the Second World War, but which was not premiered until 2007 by this same Franco-Belgian ensemble. The composer reworked it, in 1987, as his Chamber Symphony No. 2, op. 147, and recovers in his staves the audacity of his first quartet while promulgating an improvised and meditative style that facilitated the group’s brilliance. Violinist Marc Danel imaginatively elevated the most evocative passages, in thesupported, while raising his feet off the ground in a display of contortionism. And then he led the monothematic finale whose melody passed brilliantly through the four instruments.

Without a doubt, the Quartet no. 4 in E flat major, op. twenty It was the best thing about this first recital. A composition written in Moscow, in 1945, where he would write the rest of his quartets, and at the beginning of his friendship with Shostakovich, of whom the humble Weinberg always felt like a disciple and even a brother. The Danel Quartet offered a reference interpretation of this dense work. A good luck fluid and with admirable solos, where the cellist Yovan Markovicth stood out, and imposing ensemble textures. The crazy touch of the very moderate, reminiscent of Prokofiev, included the almost improvisatory performance of violist Vlad Bogdanas. And that brilliance continued in the intense funeral march, of the wide march, along with second violinist Gilles Millet, who acquired symphonic proportions without losing his halo of melancholy. The work closed with a compact version of the disperse finale to which the members of the Danel Quartet infused mystery and tension.

The Danel Quartet during their concert at the Juan March Foundation, on March 13 in Madrid.Alfredo Casasola/Juan March Foundation Archive

The recital concluded among bravos with the repetition of the extrovert presto that closes the Quartet no. 2, which they now played with more force than in the first part. There are many musical experiences coming up in the coming days at the Juan March Foundation, which will be followed live or by streaming. On Friday, March 15, two of Weinberg’s most interesting quartets can be heard. Case of the trepidante Quartet no. 5, op 27from 1945, but also his return to the genre, after experiencing Stalinist brutality, with the Quartet no. 7, op. 59from 1957, which includes one of his greatest musical gems with that hymn to the consolation that is allegretto. On Saturday, March 16, you can hear in a double session his “quartet confrontation” with Shostakovich, from quartets 9-12, when both composers worked side by side and influenced each other. And on Sunday morning, March 17, the cycle will conclude with its most ambitious quartet, the no. fifteenfrom 1979, and that longing for lost youth that is the no. 17from 1986, which closes the cycle.

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