Researcher ORCID Identifier
Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
© 2022 Ilana S Shapiro
This thesis examines the music of Mieczysław Weinberg, a prolific Jewish Holocaust-era composer whose compositions remain in relative obscurity through the present day. I begin by investigating the musical expression of Weinberg’s Polish and Jewish identity under Soviet state persecution via close analysis of selected works: the Cello Fantasia, Op. 52 and Cello Concertino, Op. 43bis. Through context of composition and allusions to Jewish music and Polish folksong, these works reveal Weinberg’s identity as a Jew and a Pole, his connection to his homeland and youth, and his musical expression beyond the demands of the state. Subsequently, I explore qualities of narrative and memory in Weinberg’s Symphony No. 21, Op. 152, Kaddish. I initially address these characteristics by analyzing Weinberg’s Symphony No. 8, Op. 83; the cantata Diary of Love, Op. 87; Symphony No. 18, Op. 138; and Weinberg’s music to Boris Ermolaev’s film Otche nash. These works semantically develop a four-chord chorale central to the Kaddish Symphony. Through complex musical symbolism, self and external musical quotations, and references to Jewish and Polish folk music, the Kaddish Symphony weaves a harrowing, profound story of love, loss, and memory, a story that ties together Weinberg’s yearning for his lost childhood and family in Poland, his mourning for the country of his youth, and his everlasting lament for the millions murdered in the Holocaust.
Beyond the written thesis, I also present a solo flute recital on four of Weinberg’s works, three of which are my own transcriptions of compositions originally for cello.
Shapiro, Ilana, "Mieczysław Weinberg: Music Transcending Tragedy" (2022). Pomona Senior Theses. 265.