Mieczysław Weinberg and the impact of ideology

Chronicle of Current Events

world premiere

Mieczysław Weinberg, Kirill Serebrennikov, Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica

The Russian composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996) was a contemporary and a friend of Shostakovich. One hundred years after his birth, Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer and his chamber orchestra Kremerata Baltica are inspired by his powerful, emotion-filled music to make a performance that looks at the parallels we can draw between today and last century. The Chronicle of Current Events was the hand typed independent magazine in the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 70s that reflected the reality of Soviet life. Consisting of music, performance and visuals by a group of Russian artists collaborating with Kirill Serebrennikov, Chronicle of Current Events is about the artist’s fate, life choices and about the casualties of communism and the Holocaust. It shows how artist’s lives are impacted by the limitations and dominant ideology of their country.

background information

Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer and chamber orchestra Kremerata Baltica present Chronicle of Current Events: a tribute to the Russian-Polish composer Mieczysław Weinberg, born a hundred years ago. Weinberg was a contemporary of Dmitri Shostakovich. On the basis of Weinberg’s music the performers draw parallels between the last century and our time.

Chronicle of Current Events was also the name of the main independent, hand typed magazine in the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 70s, reflecting the reality of Soviet life. In their performance, which has its world premiere at the Holland Festival, Kremer and his partners unite music and video images.

 

‘The idiom of Mieczysław Weinberg is highly emotional and honest. First I got to know his music, later I discovered a personal connection as well; his tragic fate in many ways was similar to the one of my father, who as well suffered a lot from the Holocaust.
With Chronicle of Current Events I intended to tell the life story of Weinberg through his music, and imagined it to be a semi theatrical production. In my youth, being passionate about theatre, I dreamt about becoming a director. Nevertheless I realized, that for the serious intentions I had regarding this homage, my skills and enthusiasm would not be sufficient. So I looked for help and approached the outstanding director Kirill Serebrennikov with my ‘self-made’ script. It was Kirill who suggested to tell the story in a different way by building a bridge to our time, and I immediately saw the potential of his approach in a much stronger and different light.
Kirill suggested me a cooperation with his assistants and students, something I immediately endorsed, having met them in Moscow. This way Valery Pecheykin, Artyom Firsanov and Daniil Orlov became our associates.
In Chronicle of Current Events music and video will feed each other, but not in the usual way in which the music becomes an accompaniment to the screen, like in the famous art works and classics Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergey Eisenstein or Dr. Mabuse, directed by Fritz Lang. In our project Weinberg’s music comes first and becomes an inspiration for the video makers, allowing them to reflect on our time.
The ‘soundtrack’ created by me will be performed live, and will consist of movements of some symphonies written for chamber orchestra, some film music of the composer along with solo works and chamber music opuses.
My personal wish is to speak to an openminded audience and to reach out for its imagination and the heart of each member of it. I wish to remind people, through music and images, that there is plenty of injustice in our world, and I aim to awaken some empathy.’

 

- Gidon Kremer

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biography

As a violinist Gidon Kremer (Riga, 1947) has had an unconventional career. After studying under David Oistrakh at

the Moscow Conservatory, Kremer won prizes in contests such as the Queen Elisabeth Competition and the Tchaikovsky Competition. Over the last five decades he has confirmed his reputation worldwide as one of the most original musicians of his generation. Gidon Kremer’s repertoire is unusually large and varied. It includes all classic and romantic masterpieces for the violin, alongside compositions by Berg, Henze and Stockhausen. Kremer promotes the work of living Russian and Eastern European composers. His name is inextricably bound to composers such as Schnittke, Pärt, Kantsjeli, Gubaidulina, Nono, Glass and Piazzolla. No other violinist of comparable stature has done so much for contemporary composers and new violin music. Kremer has brought out more than 120 CDs, many of which have been distinguished with major prizes. In 1997 he founded the chamber orchestra Kremerata Baltica, in which he works with young musicians from the Baltic states. Gidon Kremer plays an instrument that dates back to 1641, made by Nicola Amati. The four books he has written reflect the full breadth of his artistic goals and his aesthetic vision.

 

Kremerata Baltica performed for the first time at the Lockenhaus Festival in 1997. Twenty-three young musicians from the Baltic states, led by the world famous violinist Gidon Kremer, succeeded in winning over the audience with vibrant playing and a varied programme. Kremerata Baltica was Kremer’s gift to himself for his fiftieth birthday. He wanted to deploy his years of experience for an ensemble that would not make a single artistic compromise: from the beginning the group was characterised by quality and adventure. Kremer describes his ensemble as a musical democracy with an open, critical spirit. Since the beginning of this millennium Kremerata has given more than a thousand concerts in six hundred cities and fifty countries. The discography encompasses more than twenty-five titles with Nonesuch, Deutsche Grammophon and ECM, which have won prizes such as the ECHO Klassik and the Grammy Award. Kremerata Baltica works with conductors and soloists of the highest standing. The chamber orchestra’s identity is firmly linked to its varied and inventive programming. The ensemble has premiered many commissioned works. Kremerata Baltica celebrated its twentieth birthday – and Gidon Kremer’s seventieth – with a major world tour.

 

Polish-Jewish composer Mieczysław Weinberg was born in 1919 in Warsaw. His father was a conductor and violinist, his mother an actress. In 1939 Weinberg fled from the Nazis to Russia – his parents and sister, who remained behind, were killed. Weinberg is the creator of a substantial oeuvre, ranging from symphony to string quartet, opera and song. His work is not particularly well known, although a Weinberg revival has been in motion for some time. In Moscow Weinberg lived near another Soviet era composer: Dmitri Shostakovich. The men knew one another well, and exchanged tips on composition. Weinberg and Shostakovich’s friendship can be heard in their music. Over his lifetime Mieczysław Weinberg’s music has been played by eminent musicians such as Mstislav Rostropovich, Kirill Kondrashin and Emil Gilels. Violinist Gidon Kremer, an advocate of Weinberg’s work, expresses the power of the composer’s oeuvre as follows: ‘Weinberg’s creative work is a response to the entire twentieth century, with all its unpredictable events, its pain and grief, its horrors and its hope for a better future. The music composed by this great artist touches the essence of the human soul and reflects its subtlest nuances like a mirror.’

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Credits

music
Mieczysław Weinberg
video content director
Artem Firsanov
cameraman
Aleksey Venzos
scriptwriter
Valeriy Pecheykin
curator
Kirill Serebrennikov
performed by
Gidon Kremer (solist), Kremerata Baltica chamber orchestra
coproduced by
Holland Festival, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Berlin Konzerthaus, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Kremerata Baltica

This performance was made possible with support by