'Lines that have escaped destruction'
Researching the life and music of Mieczysław Weinberg
Posted by Daniel Elphick on Thursday, 19 February 2015
New web article - Prof. Danuta Gwizdalanka on new Weinberg research


A new article has been released and the kind people at culture.pl have brought it to my attention.
Authored by the brilliant Prof. Danuta Gwizdalanka, the article features new documentary evidence that brings several aspects of Weinberg's biography into question.
Gwizdalanka will be well-known to Shostakovich fans - she has authored several books on his life and music. She is also married to the composer Krzysztof Meyer, who has himself written widely on Shostakovich. Both of them have also written on Weinberg's music - Meyer has spoken often about his respect for Weinberg, while Gwizdalanka is the author of the Polish-language book Mieczysław Wajnberg: kompozytor z trzech światów [Mieczysław Wajnberg: Composer of three worlds]. Her book is an excellent introduction to Weinberg's biography and it documents several new discoveries on Gwizdalanka's part - new evidence that is included in this culture.pl article.
Her book also catalogues the various discrepancies between spellings of his name - see my article here on the same topic. To summarise, the 'Wajnberg' option appears to be becoming more and more compelling the deeper I dig.
In addition to this spelling, Gwizdalanka also found evidence that throws Weinberg's date of birth into question - his application to join the Warsaw conservatoire, which lists his birthday as 17 January 1919 - instead of the more familiar 8 December 1919. She also found the copy of Weinberg's birth certificate that he requested in the the 1980s (the building that housed the original was destroyed during the war).
All of this is certainly extremely interesting (though I am perhaps tempted to conclude that Weinberg lied about his age in order to join the Warsaw conservatoire - especially since he celebrated his birthday on the 8 December date throughout his life).
Whatever you think of these documents, and the 'Wajnberg' spelling (I find myself increasingly tempted),
Gwizdalanka's article certainly provides great food for thought.


What's in a name? The case for Weinberg, Wajnberg, or Vainberg?

Posted by Daniel Elphick Thursday, January 15, 2015
The story of Weinberg's music since his death in 1996 has often started with one key issue: how to spell his name.
This might seem obvious, but in Weinberg's case, it is wrought with problems. There are several options, each with their own line of reasoning:


This might not seem like much of an issue, but when it comes to things like searching archives or record labelling, the significance becomes apparent. As you might have noticed, I stick to the 'Weinberg' spelling, but even I am beginning to have my doubts about this option.
Of course, David Fanning's monograph on the composer uses the 'Weinberg' spelling, as does the Osteuropa 2010 issue, and the majority of western CD releases.
In this article, I'll quote several authors on their reasoning behind their choice of spelling, before providing some further examples. The final choice, I believe, rests with the reader.
Polish Origins
For me, the issue boils down to one of transliteration. Weinberg was born in Poland, but lived the majority of his life in Moscow. In the Russian language, Weinberg's surname is spelt as:
Confusion arises already. If we transliterate the name back into English, following standard rules (laid down in the New Grove dictionary of musicians), we end up with:
Following German rules for transliteration, we end up with: Vajnberg (or) Vainberg
The British Olympia Label opted for the 'Vainberg' spelling for their series of 18 CDs featuring his music. All of this, however, is forgetting Weinberg's Polish origins.
Confusingly, two different spellings exist, even here. In his earliest manuscripts, Weinberg signs his name in the following spelling: Wajnberg

It seems apparent that the family used the 'Wajnberg' spelling in their day-to-day life.

However, in the world of the Jewish theatre, which the family was heavily involved in, the spelling 'Weinberg' was used, such as on this vinyl release of Schmuel Weinberg conducting yiddish songs:
Schmuel Weinberg, conducting songs, with the cantor Jakob Koussevitsky - release on the Syrene label, 1929.
Listen to the vinyl here.

Based on the usage in pre-war Poland, the two main contenders for Latin-based spellings of the surname are Wajnberg and Weinberg.

Opinions Here are a few selected quotes, discussing the confusion with the name:
First, the late Per Skans - Why Weinberg? Why not Vainberg? Why not Wainberg? Or Vajnberg? Or Wajnberg?
The reason is very simple: Weinberg is correct, all other spellings are wrong! Weinberg grew up and spent his first twenty years in Poland, where the Latin alphabet is used, and he and his family spelt the name exactly this way. Its origin is German/Yiddish. Any other spelling in the Latin alphabet must thus be avoided! I confess having a certain guilt myself, since I once accepted - without checking them - certain rumours that Weinberg himself preferred the spelling "Vainberg". I discovered my error after I had written the texts for half a dozen CDs in the large series of Olympia in London, and I wanted to change the spelling, but they refused. In fact I understand this, because it would have confused their customers if they had changed it in the middle of a series. Nevertheless the CDs have unfortunately contributed to the present Babylonic situation. The variety of (wrong) spellings is due to the circumstance that various people believed that the original spelling of the name was the one of the Russian alphabet. They then transliterated the name into the Latin alphabet, according to various rules (an ironical detail being that Soviet scores -- of all! -- used the correct spelling Weinberg!). But now Weinberg is becoming increasingly accepted. The New Groves, the famous dictionary, used the English transliteration "Vaynberg" some years ago, but in the Internet edition they have now corrected this into Weinberg. I am at present writing a biography in English which is scheduled to appear in 2005 at Toccata Press in London; there I of course am using the correct spelling Weinberg!
Per Skans, Uppsala, Sweden - taken from music-weinberg.net.
This, from the wikipedia entry on Weinberg:
Much confusion has been caused by different renditions of the composer's names. In the Polish language (i.e. prior to his move to the USSR), his name was spelled as 'Mieczysław Wajnberg', whereas in the Russian language (i.e. after the move) he was and still is known as 'Моисей Самуилович Вайнберг' (Moisey Samuilovich Vaynberg). In the world of Yiddish theater of antebellum Warsaw he was known as Moishe Weinberg (Yiddish: משה װײַנבערג), which is analogous to the Russian Moisey. Among close friends he would also go by his Polish diminutive 'Mietek'. Re-transliteration of his surname from Cyrillic (Вайнберг) back into the Latin alphabet produced a variety of spellings, including 'Weinberg', 'Vainberg', and 'Vaynberg'. The form 'Weinberg' is now being increasingly used as the most frequent English-language rendition of this common Jewish surname, notably in the latest edition of Grove and by Weinberg's biographer, Per Skans. And this, from Simon Wynberg's (no relation!) article on the composer:
Some confusion has attended Mieczysław Weinberg’s surname. In Poland he was Wajnberg, in the Soviet Union, Moisey Samuilovich Vaynberg — “Matek” to those who knew him well. A few traditionalists still cling to the other Cyrillic-derived version: “Vainberg”.  But there have been a number of other variations, including Wajnberg, Vaynberg or Vijnberg. The music-historian Per Skans has written of the composer’s preference for the standard Westernised version, “Weinberg”, and this spelling is now becoming the norm. [Full article - here]
On the topic of Soviet publishers' spellings, here are three different examples. This first has the 'Weinberg' spelling, the one that Per Skans mentioned as 'ironic' (from 1972):

And another Soviet score, that features the 'Polish' spelling (from 1968)

And yet another, with the Olympia-style spelling:

So, as we can see, there is variation even there.

 Danuta Gwizdalanka, the highly respected Polish musicologist, brought out a book in 2013, titled 'Mieczysław Wajnberg: kompozytor z trzech światów' (Mieczyslaw Wajnberg: The composer of three worlds).
In this volume, she makes a highly convincing case that the name should, authentically, be spelt as 'Wajnberg'. Her title reflects this, and the spelling has now been taken up in Polish productions, such as the following poster for a production of The Portrait:

The upshot of all this is that the reasoning behind the 'Weinberg' spelling appears to be rather flimsy upon closer inspection. After all, Weinberg signed his scores 'Wajnberg' when he lived in Poland.
A large number of his manuscripts feature the 'Wajnberg' spelling, well into later life. The latest that I've found dates from 1981 (most of these are from works that feature a bi-lingual title page - usually because they deal with Polish texts or Polish material).
If he did decide that 'Weinberg' was the best spelling, he continued to use the 'Polish' spelling into later life. To the best of my knowledge, he didn't actually use the 'Weinberg' spelling in any of his manuscripts.
And the evidence from Per Skans appears to be anecdotal, at best (though, perhaps, further evidence will surface after the publication of David Fanning's lengthy 'life and works' volume, with Toccata press).
After weighing up the options, and particularly taking into account Gwizalanka's efforts to promote the 'Wajnberg' spelling, I am left doubting the appropriateness of the 'Weinberg' spelling.
Of course, I have the rather large practical consideration of changing every single instance of his surname in my PhD work. So, for now, I'll stick with the 'Weinberg' option.

Unknown Facts From Mieczysław Wajnberg’s Biography
On behalf of Culture.pl, an online magazine promoting Polish culture abroad, run by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
I would like to recommend to your attention our latest article about Mieczysław Wajnberg
Magdalena Dropek

Mieczysław Wajnberg’s application for the Warsaw conservatory and the original copy of his birth certificate diversifies our knowledge of the famous composer.
Professor Danuta Gwizdalanka, a musicologist who discovered these documents in the archives of the Warsaw University of Music, reports for Culture.pl.
Mieczysław Wajnberg (1919-1995), was a composer and pianist who created The Passenger opera. Born in Warsaw, he left Poland forever at the age of 20, escaping from persecutions by the Nazis.
He settled in the USSR. By the end of Wajnberg’s life, his works had become appreciated outside the borders of the old empire – The Passenger, a play forbidden in the USSR, had its premiere in Bregenzer in 2013 and was enthusiastically received.

On 22nd July 1982 in Moscow, a duplicate of his birth certificate was presented to Wajnberg at his request.
Meanwhile in Warsaw, two documents linked to the composer were preserved :  a birth certificate  and his application to the conservatory
This birth certificate has been transcribed into the Jewish Faith Metrical Books at the 7th police station of Warsaw on the 17th of January 1919 under no. 26.
The document was issued and authenticated on 20th May, 1936, in the Archive of Marital Status Acts by the Provincial Court of Warsaw, and signed by a clerk on a 1 złoty revenue stamp.

Mieczysław Wajnberg’s Moscow duplicata birth certificate and Warsaw conservatory application : UMFC Archives

Date of birth : On the Moscow duplicate reads 8th December, 1919. Meanwhile, both documents preserved at the Warsaw conservatory archives state that Wajbnerg was born on 12th January, 1919.

Mother : In the Moscow document, Wajnberg’s mother’s name is Sarra Kotlitzkaja; the Warsaw certificate states: Sura Dwojra (Sara Debora) Stern.
Decrypting these names is Ms. Bella Szwarcman-Czarnota's great contribution. Maybe after 43 years Wajnberg was unable to recall his mother’s maiden name.

First name : The name that appears on the birth certificate and the conservatory application is Mojsze. In his adult life, Wajnberg used the name Mieczysław, and affirmed that this was the name given to him at birth.
Reversion to this name was the main cause of his efforts to obtain a duplicate of the birth certificate.
In the year of his 75th birthday, Wajnberg recalled the circumstances of his escape from Warsaw in September 1939;
he insisted that this is when his name was changed from Mieczysław to Mojsze.

On the border… there was a division, which was checking the documents. They weren’t very careful as loads of people were queuing.
When my turn came they asked: "Last name?" – "Wajnberg." – "Name?" – “Mieczysław.” – “What is Mieczysław? A Jew?” – “A Jew.” – “Well then you should be Mojsiej.” (…)
I wished to return to my real name, especially since on the documents I have been left with, the name “Mieczysław” would appear.
When I was running away from Warsaw, and then from Minsk, I only took my works and any handwriting analysis would confirm that their author’s name is Mieczysław Wajnberg.
I decided to return to it. It cost me a lot of health! I had no birth certificate, the archives were burned down. (…)
But I wanted this done to make amends with historical justice. If I was given this name, it means that I should be using it…
(Ludmila Nikitina Poczti luboj mig żizni – rabota... Stranicy biografii i tworczestwa Mjeczisława Wajnberga, "Muzykalnaja akademija" 1994 nr 5).

English musicologist and Wajnberg’s biographer David Fanning has, upon my request, proved that the name Mieczysław appears on two Mazurka manuscripts.
In pre-war notes on Wajnberg and in stories told by his peers (a relation of Roman Jasiński in the lead of Fredek uszczęśliwa świat / Fredek pleases the world film, for example) either “M.”, Mojsze or Moses would be evoked.
Last name : The composer's signed the conservatory application as “Wajnberg”.
The other spelling, “Weinberg”, appears on the covers of Syrena record label albums, and in the programmes of Qui pro quo cabaret shows.
Different spelling of Polish Jews’ last names was not uncommon at the time, therefore even his son appears as “M. Weinberg” in the lead of the film Fredek uszczęśliwa świat / Fredek Pleases the World.
In his adult life, the composer signed letters written in Polish as “Wajnberg”.

Author: Danuta Gwizdalanka, February 2015



Mieczysław Weinberg, photo: Nouvelles de l’Est

Faits inconnus de la biographie de Mieczysław Wajnberg

 Auteur: Culture.pl
Publié: Feb 12 2015
La candidature de Mieczysław Wajnberg au conservatoire de Varsovie et la copie originale de son acte de naissance diversifient nos connaissances sur le célèbre compositeur.
Le professeur Danuta Gwizdalanka, musicologue qui a découvert ces documents dans les archives de l’Université de musique de Varsovie, rapporte pour Culture.pl.

Mieczysław Wajnberg (1919-1995), est un compositeur et pianiste qui a créé l’opéra The Passenger. 
Né à Varsovie, il a quitté la Pologne pour toujours à l’âge de 20 ans, fuyant les persécutions des nazis. Il s’installe en URSS.
À la fin de la vie de Wajnberg, ses œuvres étaient devenues appréciées en dehors des frontières de l’ancien empire – 

Le Passager, 
une pièce interdite en URSS, a eu sa première à Bregenzer en 2013 et a été accueillie avec enthousiasme.

Le 22nd Juillet 1982 à Moscou, un duplicata de son acte de naissance a été présenté à Wajnberg à sa demande. Pendant ce temps à Varsovie, deux documents liés au compositeur ont été conservés : sa demande au conservatoire et un acte de naissance. Ce dernier déclare :

Ce certificat de naissance a été transcrit dans les livres officiels de la foi juive au 7ième poste de police de Varsovie le 17 janvier 1919 sous le n° 28.

Le document a été délivré et authentifié le 20ième Mai 1936, dans les Archives des lois sur l’état matrimonial par la Cour provinciale de Varsovie, et signé par un greffier sur un timbre fiscal de 1 złoty.

Date de naissance

Certificat de naissance et demande de conservatoire de Mieczysław Wajnberg, photo: UMFC Archives
La date de naissance sur le duplicata de Moscou indique 8 Décembre 1919.
Pendant ce temps, les deux documents conservés aux archives du conservatoire de Varsovie indiquent que Wajbnerg est né le 12 Janvier 1919.


Dans le document de Moscou, la mère de Wajnberg s’appelle Sarra Kotlitzkaja ; le certificat de Varsovie indique : Sura Dwojra (Sara Debora) Stern.
Décrypter ces noms est la grande contribution de Mme Bella Szwarcman-Czarnota. Peut-être qu’après 43 ans, Wajnberg était incapable de se souvenir du nom de jeune fille de sa mère.


Le nom qui apparaît sur l’acte de naissance et la demande de conservatoire est Mojsze.
Dans sa vie adulte, Wajnberg a utilisé le nom Mieczysław, et a affirmé que c’était le nom qui lui avait été donné à la naissance.
Le retour à ce nom a été la principale cause de ses efforts pour obtenir un duplicata de l’acte de naissance.

L'année de son 75e anniversaire, Wajnberg se souvient des circonstances de son évasion de Varsovie en septembre 1939 ; il a insisté sur le fait que c’est à ce moment-là que son nom a été changé de Mieczysław à Mojsze.
À la frontière...

... il y avait une division qui vérifiait les documents. Ils n’étaient pas très prudents car beaucoup de gens faisaient la queue. Quand mon tour est venu, ils m’ont demandé: « Nom? » - « Wajnberg. » - « Nom? » - « Mieczysław. » - « Qu’est-ce que Mieczysław? Un Juif ? » – « Un Juif. » – « Eh bien, vous devriez être Mojsiej. » (...) Je souhaitais revenir à mon vrai nom, d’autant plus que sur les documents qui m’ont été laissés, le nom « Mieczysław » apparaitrait. Quand je fuyais Varsovie, puis Minsk, je ne prenais que mes œuvres et toute analyse de l’écriture manuscrite confirmait que le nom de leur auteur est Mieczysław Wajnberg. J’ai décidé d’y revenir. Cela m’a coûté beaucoup de santé! Je n’avais pas d’acte de naissance, les archives ont été brûlées. (...) Mais je voulais que cela soit fait pour faire amende honorable avec la justice historique. Si on m’a donné ce nom, cela signifie que je devrais l’utiliser...

(Ludmila Nikitina Poczti luboj mig żizni – rabota... Stranicy biografii i tworczestwa Mjeczisława Wajnberga, "Muzykalnaja akademija" 1994 nr 5).

English musicologist and Wajnberg’s biographer David Fanning has, upon my request, proved that the name Mieczysław appears on two Mazurka manuscripts.

Dans les notes d’avant-guerre sur Wajnberg et dans les histoires racontées par ses pairs
(une relation de Roman Jasiński dans le rôle principal de Fredek uszczęśliwa świat / Fredek plaît au cinéma mondial, par exemple) soit « M. », Mojsze ou Moïse seraient évoqués.


Le compositeur a signé la demande du conservatoire sous le nom de « Wajnberg ».
L’autre orthographe, « Weinberg », apparaît sur les pochettes des albums du label Syrena, et dans les programmes des spectacles de cabaret Qui pro quo. 
L’orthographe différente des noms de famille des Juifs polonais n’était pas rare à l’époque, donc même son fils apparaît comme « M. Weinberg » dans le rôle principal du film Fredek uszczęśliwa świat / Fredek Pleases the World.

Dans sa vie adulte, le compositeur a signé des lettres écrites en polonais sous le nom de « Wajnberg ».

Auteur: Danuta Gwizdalanka, février 2015