The concert, which is part of the Musica non grata cycle, presenting music by composers persecuted by 20th-century totalitarian regimes, is dedicated to an artist whose life was afflicted by both the Nazis and the Communists. The Polish-Russian composer and pianist Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996) fled from Poland to Belarus from the Nazis when he was 20 years of age. Later on, he moved to Moscow, yet owing to his Jewish descent and the nature of his music he faced harsh oppression from the Soviet establishment. In 1953, he was arrested on charges of “Jewish bourgeois nationalism”. The concert takes place in cooperation with the Polish Institute in Prague.
Today, Weinberg is primarily known for his 1968 opera The Passenger, which only received its first fully staged performance in 2010, in a production directed by David Pountney. The piece manifests the vital role played in Weinberg’s music – clearly influenced by that of Dmitry Shostakovich – by his experience and memories of the horrors of World War II, the Holocaust in particular. Weinberg treated the subject in many of his works, protesting against war and expressing compassion with those who experienced unbearable suffering. “I did not choose the theme. It was dictated to me by Fate, the tragedy of my beloveds. I feel morally obliged to write about the war, about the horrific fate our century brought to people.”
The same applies to Weinberg’s final completed orchestral piece, the 1991 Symphony No. 21, subtitled “Kaddish”. The extensive work, made up of six sections, reveals the composer’s human and artistic affinity to Shostakovich and may be defined as an elegy teeming with desire for life, and expressing unfathomable agony and everlasting hope. Weinberg dedicated Symphony No. 21, “Kaddish”, to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis in 1943. The performance at the National Theatre marks the Czech premiere of this extraordinary work.