Mieczysław Weinberg was a Soviet composer, born in Poland to a Jewish family. While living in Uzbekistan he met Dmitri Shostakovich, whose music inspired him, and they became friends and trusted colleagues. In February 1953, Weinberg was imprisoned during an antisemitic campaign, partly in retaliation against a family member, and not helped by the fact that he often showed less deference to Soviet stylistic edicts than other composers did. Only Stalin’s death the following month, and a letter of defense from the rehabilitated Shostakovich, won his release and saved him from death in the gulag.
In the later 1950s and ‘60s, Weinberg took advantage of the greater freedoms of the Khrushchev Thaw to stake out a more modernist aesthetic and he collaborated with some of the leading Russian performers of the day. His 24 Preludes for Solo Cello were written in 1968 for Mstislav Rostropovich, who never performed them. The 13th Prelude is set entirely in pizzicato: the opening contrasts a high wavering gesture with a scalar idea below, while the middle section introduces cryptic strums and slides.