Melodiya’s increasingly visible presence in the international
market place is entirely to be welcomed, and
its latest batch of reissues will be of real interest to
collectors. This one couples two Weinberg symphonies in
performances given by the forces that premiered them, which
adds up to more than mere historical-documentary significance.
The Fourth Symphony was
written in 1957 but was revised in 1961 and premiered the
same year. This recording followed a year later and there’s
no reason to think that Kondrashin had in any serious way
modified his understanding and perception of the work.
The idiom is broadly concerto grosso-like; to be crude,
Tippett of the Corelli Fantasia meets a Shostakovich scherzo.
It’s cast in four movements with a bustly, terse rather
martially flecked opening, with percussive interjections.
The second movement waltz is soon supplanted by a martial
trumpet call to arms though the writing here, despite the
plentiful rhythmic incident, is inclined to be rather static
in character. The lyrical dance theme of the Andantino – a
touch Mahlerian as Weinberg could so often be – has plenty
of insistence though that’s cemented in the finale – incisive
strings, high winds, percussion batteries, all of which
break into a swirling dance, Bartók style. Weinberg’s rhythmic
vitality is always impressive but one feels that there
are times when thematic material suffers.
Sixth Symphony premiered in 1963, the year it was completed.
It’s in five movements with an important role for boys
choir. Its opening is a profound, Shostakovich-like lament
that is momentarily flecked by reprieving bird calls only
to resume, even more, the grim trudge accompanied by wide,
braying trumpets. The boys chorus and solo violin dominate
the naïve-sounding second movement, though as ever with
Weinberg there are vertiginous contrasts between high and
low registers. Khatchaturian seems to play a part in the
central scherzo - fused with the grotesquerie of a Shostakovich
circus gallop; burlesque meets brimstone. This may or may
not prepare one for the cataclysm that is the Largo, in
which the focus turns squarely on reminiscences of war.
Low brass pitched against the boys choir summons up its
own particular, unsettled sound world – dank, clinging
clay and skylarks – as Weinberg sustains his threnody over
seven compelling minutes. After this Weinberg finishes
with an Andantino where the boys sing a deliberately naïve
poem, accompanied by a beneficent but nevertheless grief
tinged violin solo.
is shown in contrasting moods; neo-baroque with rhythm
the primary impetus in the Fourth, and in the Sixth a composer
of powerful structural awareness and melancholic drama.
Kondrashin directs with exemplary passion and incision.
The presentation and remastering are to a high standard.
are more modern alternatives for both – the Fourth for
example is on a Chandos disc with the National Polish
RSO, Katowice conducted by Gabriel Chmura [Chandos
CHAN 10237 - see review]. The Sixth has been recorded
by the Jerusalem Symphony under Yuri Ahronovich on Jerusalem
This Kondrashin Fourth
was once available on Olympia coupled with the Violin Concerto
and the Rhapsody On Moldavian Themes, the Sixth similarly
on Olympia OCD 471. If you missed the Weinberg cycle there
you can make amends now.