My career-long relationship with Weinberg’s Trumpet Concerto has been entirely serendipitous, as I seem destined to have become a proponent of this most deserving work. It was written for the Soviet Union’s greatest trumpet soloist, Timofey Dokshitzer, the brass world’s equivalent to Oistrakh or Rostropovich and the very first trumpeter I ever heard. I was thirteen when my mother took me to his only US appearance that year, at the International Trumpet Guild Conference, which was meeting just a few miles down the road from my home in Wisconsin. He played the Alexander Arutunian Concerto, and many years later Arutunian took great interest in my own performances of his work in Russia, even inviting me to play it for his birthday in Armenia. The Weinberg Concerto was first proposed to me in Tel Aviv in 1996, by his own daughter and granddaughter, who attended my Israel Philharmonic concerts. They invited me to play it on the anniversary of his death in Moscow, an opportunity that regrettably never came to fruition due to Russia’s fragile economy. The second stroke of serendipity was in 2010, when Naxos asked me to record it for their catalog of Weinberg’s works, cementing my odd connection with this work. Looking forward, I am thankful to now have as a collaborator conductor Jonathon Heyward, who shares my great enthusiasm for this treasure and has scheduled performances of it together in Germany and at home in Baltimore.
Imbued with famous orchestral excerpts, Mieczysław Weinberg’s Trumpet Concerto op.93 was proclaimed “a symphony for trumpet and orchestra” by his lifelong friend Shostakovich, the twentieth century’s greatest symphonist. He and Weinberg were possibly the last of the centuries-old tradition of composers of music’s “Platonic forms,” the symphony, sonata, and concerto. Though now a widely recognized genius, in his day Mieczysław Weinberg struggled greatly to gain a fitting livelihood in the vast Soviet Union, which spanned fifteen republics and eleven time zones. Not a native Russian but a Polish refugee who came into Russia on foot to escape the invading German army, he was renamed Moishey by a Russian soldier who remarked his name was too complicated. He had the unenviable position of writing in the shadow of such towering living luminaries as Shostakovich and Prokofiev. It is my view that, in the West, we program according to representative icons of national schools, and owing to that, Weinberg was overlooked. Thankfully, with the 21st century resurgence of interest in his work, all that has changed, though sadly for him not during his lifetime. In the arts, it is said, one is appreciated only after one passes from this world.