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Mieczyslaw Samuilovich VAINBERG (Moishei Weinberg) (1919 - 1996)
Symphony #5 in f, Op 76 (1962) [45.32]
Sinfonietta #1, Op 41 (1948) [22.08]
National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra Katowice/Gabriel Chmura
Recorded at Grzegorz Fitelberg Concert Hall, Katowice, Poland, 7 March 2003
Notes in English, Deutsch, and Français. Photos of artists and composer.
Symphonies Volume 1
CHANDOS CHAN 10128 [67.51]


Comparison recording:

Vainberg: Violin Concerto, Symphony #4. Moscow PO "Vol. 10" Olympia OCD 622
Vainberg: Symphonies 7 and 12 "Volume 2" Olympia OCD 472
Vainberg: Symphony #6, Ahronovich, Jerusalem SO & Chorus Jerusalem SCD 8005

Very early in my exploration of classical music I discovered an LP recording of one of Vainberg’s Sinfoniettas and enjoyed listening to it, so I have been aware of him as long as I have many other better known composers.

Vainberg’s music is sort of like Shostakovich with some sugar on it, or perhaps one should say a little less vinegar — the same drama, melody, and colour but with less depression and sarcasm. This is remarkable because Vainberg has more to be depressed and angry about than Shostakovich. Vainberg’s entire family in Poland was destroyed by the Nazis, and Vainberg himself came much closer to being sent to the gulag than Shostakovich ever did — saved, ironically, by Shostakovich’s intervention on his behalf. Vainberg has a fine sense of drama and structure. As he is every bit as capable an orchestrator as Shostakovich, his music has rich orchestral colour. Chandos’s usual demonstration quality sound is put to very good use here and the artists perform brilliantly and with great sympathy.

Unfortunately, it is precisely this relative lack of angst that sets Vainberg’s music on a slightly lower pedestal than Shostakovich. At his best — the Violin Concerto Op. 67 or the Fourth Symphony — he is very, very good. Those works have hummable melodies, traditional structure, and exciting drama and can be recommended without reservation.

The Fifth Symphony is a stark, urgent, passionate work, with only fragmentary themes here and there. Orchestration and dramatic structure are very reminiscent of Shostakovich. Both the Fourth and Sixth Symphonies are more melodic, or at least more recognisably motivic, certainly more fun. The Sinfonia, described in the notes as "Jewish music," is a tuneful work with bright rhythms and cheerful colour. It deserves to be much more popular than it is. So, unless you are a Vainberg completist (come on, I’m sure I’m not the only one out there) you might be more likely to buy this disk for the Serenade. If the future volumes in this Chandos "Symphonies" series, which evidently will also include all the Serenades, are as well performed and recorded as this one, Vainberg completists will rejoice in each new volume. Many of the volumes in the Olympia series, which evidently was to include all works, are still in print, mostly via

On this disk the publisher has used the polyglot form "Mieczyslaw Weinberg" and "Weinberg" is on the disk spine. On Olympia OCD472 the name is "Moishei Vainberg" but other of the Olympia series have it as "Miechyslav Vainberg." and one sometimes sees "Mois(s)ei." One could get the idea we’re talking about a whole crowd of people.

Paul Shoemaker

Information received

The text author is joking about the various spellings of the composer's name, so a brief statement of facts seems appropriate.
As for the first name, "Moisei" was forced on the composer when he arrived in the USSR in 1939. It was only in the 1980s that he managed to regain his real first name "Mieczysław" (with a "Polish slash" on the "l"). When Olympia heard of this, they changed the name.

The correct spelling of the family name is "Weinberg": the composer grew up under this name and spelling in Poland. "Vainberg" and all other variants are (in part faulty) transliterations from the Russian form of the name, which in turn is a transliteration from the original.

So "Mieczysław Weinberg" is the ONLY correct way of writing his name with Latin letters.

Per Skans




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