Raising the public and professional recognition of Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Unit of AssessmentMusic, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media, Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
Summary of the impact
This research has had a significant impact on raising the profile of the
Polish born composer Mieczysław Weinberg. Prior to Professor Fanning's
work little was known in the West about this composer's extensive musical
output and his music was rarely performed. Professor Fanning's research
has enhanced public and professional awareness of the music of Weinberg,
impacting on musicians, record companies, arts venues and audiences in
Britain and Europe. It has led to the first ever performance cycle of his
17 string quartets as well as world premieres of his Requiem and
his comic opera Lady Magnesia, alongside other performances and
numerous recordings. The research has established the University of
Manchester as the main repository of information and source material
concerning Weinberg in the Western world.
The impact is based on research that took place in Manchester from
1992-date, with the first major publication in 1993. The key researcher
was Professor David Fanning (1992-date) who was aided by Marc Danel, Giles
Millet, Vlad Bogdanas and Guy Danel of the Belgian string quartet Quatuor
The aim of the research was (and continues to be) to reveal the full
range and significance of the music of Mieczysław Weinberg. The pianist
and composer was born in Poland in 1919 and twice fled Nazi invasions
before finally settling in Moscow where he became one of the most highly
regarded composers in the Shostakovich circle. Professor Fanning wanted to
explore his contribution to both Soviet and international musical
development and how Weinberg's work reflects wider social and cultural
The key research steps were:
- Building on work published in 2004 [3.6] Professor Fanning embarked on
intensive research into Weinberg's life and music. In 2006 he was
invited to speak on Weinberg at the conference "Shostakovich and
Weinberg" at the University of Rochester in New York.
- On the strength of this and his track record in Soviet music, he was
entrusted with the legacy of Per Skans, the Swedish broadcaster and
scholar who had amassed a substantial collection of biographical
materials concerning Weinberg. Skans died in February 2007.
- Professor Fanning visited the Weinberg family archive in Moscow in
2006 and 2010 and his research led to the first book-length survey of
Weinberg's life and works in any language [3.1].
- During this time the Belgian string quartet Quatuor Danel embarked on
performances of all 17 Weinberg string quartets, in conjunction with CD
recordings for the German label CPO. The group performed the complete
cycle in November 2009.
The key research outputs were:
- An assessment of all Weinberg's manuscripts, which amounted to some
20,000 pages of material [3.1, 3.2].
- A critical analysis of his works including 154 opuses and more than 70
film and theatre scores [3.1, 3.2].
- The translation of vocal works, both literal and for singing [3.4].
- The preparation of performing editions of the string quartets, which
were done in partnership with Quatuor Danel [3.3].
The research is still active with recent and prospective productions of
Weinberg's operas, notably The Portrait (Opera North, 2011) and The
Passenger (English National Opera, 2011). These have been influenced
by Professor Fanning's translations and research. The string quartets are
also increasingly performed.
References to the research
(AOR — Available on request)
The research was published as a monograph [3.1], book chapters [3.5, 3.6]
and journal articles [3.2]. It also led to publications in sources for a
non-specialist readership, such as CD booklet essays [3.3] and newspaper
articles. The research has also contributed to performance events in
national and international venues [3.4, 3.5] and recordings [3.3]. It was
supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for `The Life and Works of
Mieczysław Weinberg', October 2009-January 2010 worth £36,254.
[3.1] D. Fanning. Mieczysław Weinberg: In Search of Freedom,
Hofheim, Wolke, 2010, 220 pages; simultaneously published in German,
trans. Jens Hagestedt, as Mieczysław Weinberg: auf der Suche nach
Freiheit. Monograph. (AOR)
[3.2] D. Fanning. '"Was aber zählt ist die Musik": Mieczysław Weinbergs
Leben und Werk', Osteuropa, 60/7 (July 2010), 5-24. Journal
[3.3] Quatuor Danel. Mieczysław Weinberg String Quartets. CD
recordings: vols. 1-6, CPO 777 313-2, 777 392-3, 777 393-2, 777 394-2, 777
566-2, 774 587-2 [2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012] with accompanying CD
booklet essays by Fanning. Performances [over 90 concerts in the UK and
Europe between 2005 and 2012.] (AOR)
Other Relevant Publications
[3.4] D. Fanning. Singing Translation for Weinberg's Lady Magnesia
(Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Clark Rundell,
November 2010). World Premiere Performance. (AOR)
[3.5] D. Fanning. `The Symphony in the Soviet Union', in Robert Layton
(ed.) A Companion to the Symphony, London, Simon & Schuster,
1993, pp. 292-326, pbk repr. as A Guide to the Symphony, Oxford,
Oxford University Press, 1995. Book Chapter. (AOR)
[3.6] D. Fanning. `Shostakovich and his Pupils', in Laurel Fay (ed.) Shostakovich
and his World, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2004, 275-302.
Book Chapter. (AOR)
Details of the impact
The life of Mieczysław Weinberg illuminates our understanding of cultural
responses to the mass migration provoked by the Second World War.
Following his flight from Poland to Soviet Belo-Russia, Uzbekistan and
finally Moscow, Weinberg's experiences led him to produce vocal and stage
works that number among the finest musical commemorations of the
Holocaust. Weinberg's music is now recognised to be of far greater range,
social resonance and intrinsic value than had been previously realised
thanks to the work of Professor Fanning and the performances by Quatuor
Danel. The important influences that Weinberg had on his friend and mentor
Shostakovich and others are also now recognised.
Pathways to Impact
The research was disseminated and promoted through a wide variety of
sources, including scholarly publications such as a monograph (796 copies
sold June 2010-December 2012), essays and conference papers. It has also
been published in CD booklet essays and newspaper articles. There have
also been various recordings and performance events in national and
international venues. All performances referred to here were given to
non-academic audiences in commercial settings.
Reach and Significance of the Impact
Impact on public knowledge of Mieczysław Weinberg
Before Professor Fanning's research there was just one book on Weinberg —
a specialised study in Russian, dealing with 10 symphonies — and no
scholarly articles. Recordings of his music were also limited in number.
Roughly four times as many CDs are now available, of which most are
directly or indirectly connected to the research. Professor Fanning's
publications on Weinberg are seen as essential sources. Gramophone
said his work "Will serve as the key reference point for enthusiasts and
skeptics alike" (February 2011) and BBC Music Magazine wrote "A
totally sympathetic yet balanced appraisal of this highly significant
figure... Fanning's book is a voyage of discovery... his enthusiasm is
vividly conveyed" (December 2010).
Professor Fanning has also contributed to commercial documentaries by
Österreichischer Rundfunk (2010) and Neos (DVD/BluRay issue of Weinberg's
opera, The Passenger — NEOS 51005, 2010).
Broadcasters and journalists routinely refer to Professor Fanning's
writings as their principal source of information. For example, a
journalist from The New Yorker says: "It is difficult to think of
another example of scholarly work having such immediate impact on the
repertory of ensembles and opera houses around the world... only when I
came across Fanning's researches, the quartet performances that the Danels
executed under his supervision, and, perhaps, most importantly, the
masterly Holocaust opera The Passenger, which Fanning translated and
helped to ready for performance, did I take the measure of Weinberg's
extraordinary gifts." [5.1] Fanning's public talks relating to Weinberg's
work have occurred with Quatuor Danel at the University of Manchester.
There have also been talks with Weinberg's friend Tommy Persson [5.5], the
composer Reinhard Flender and at the Royal Northern College of Music and
Opera North. His talks on Weinberg have also proved popular at the German
festivals Bregenzer Festspiele and Gohrisch Festival. [5.8]
Impact on music
The Quatuor Danel's performance of Weinberg's 17 string quartets in
November 2009 attracted an audience of 751 people from Sweden, USA,
France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and the UK to the University of
Manchester's Martin Harris Centre of Music and Drama [5.2]. The
group also performed the complete cycle in Belgium in 2011. Before that
Quatuor Danel performed Weinberg's quartets individually at the University
of Manchester from 2008-2011 (10 concerts, averaging 125 attendees each
[5.2], including 10 UK and 5 world premieres) and then more widely in 57
European and UK concerts (2008-11).
The University of Manchester Quartet cycle (and Lady Magnesia)
were nominated as the `most adventurous programming [in the UK] of 2009'
by Ivan Hewett in The Daily Telegraph. The first volume of CD
recordings of the cycle (2007-2012) was nominated by BBC Music Magazine as
`Chamber CD of the month' (March 2008, p. 72; magazine circulation
Record companies in the UK, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland (Chandos
[5.3], CPO, BIS, Divox, and Toccata Classics [5.4]) have published booklet
essays by Professor Fanning accompanying their CDs of Weinberg's music.
BIS and Divox reported sales of 1390 and 993 units respectively, as of Oct
2011. The companies have also drawn on his advice over repertoire and
scores, described as "a vital element in the success of the recordings".
Impact on musicians
The significance of the research is evident through its promotion of, and
influence on, performances of Weinberg's works. It has enabled
professional music organisations to provide innovative programmes for
their audiences. For example:
- Professor Fanning's translation was used in preparation for the world
premiere of Weinberg's Requiem by the Royal Liverpool
Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) in 2009 [5.7].
- His singing translation of Lady Magnesia led to the world
premiere of this opera [5.7], conducted by Clark Rundell (RLPO, 2010).
- His literal translation for the opera The Passenger formed the
basis of David Pountney's libretto for the English National Opera's
production in 2011. [5.8]
- His research on Weinberg's The Portrait influenced the
Bulgarian conductor Rossen Gergov's approach to this opera which was
performed by the Bregenzer Festspiele in August 2010 and Opera North in
Professor Fanning's research has also impacted on performers' choice and
interpretation of repertoire. For example, the American pianist Allison
Brewster Franzetti has recorded the complete works of Weinberg's piano
music on four Naxos CDs [5.6].
Recent and forthcoming premieres of operas in Germany and Houston (where
Professor Fanning is an invited speaker) testify to the growing
international reverence for Weinberg. A large part of this new-found
interest is as a result of the Manchester research.
Sources to corroborate the impact
All claims referenced in section 4.
[5.1] Letter from the correspondent at the New Yorker, 3 September 2011,
pp. 82-3 confirming monograph knowledge transfer
[5.2] University of Manchester's Martin Harris Centre of Music and Drama
[5.3] Letter from the Literary Editor at Chandos Records confirming
recording sales and professional influence
[5.4] Letter from the Proprietor at Toccata Classics confirming recording
sales and professional influence
[5.5] Letter from a friend of the composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg and his
family confirming the promotion of Weinberg's reputation through
publication and performance
[5.6] Letter from the acclaimed pianist confirming the influence of
research on professional music practice
[5.7] Confidential document from Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
[5.8] Confidential document from Peer Music Classical GmbH