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Moishei VAINBERG (Mieczyslaw WEINBERG) (1919-1996)
Symphony No.4 in A minor Op.61 (1957 revised 1961) [28.05]
Symphony No.6 in A minor Op.79 (1962-63) [41.55] +
Boys Chorus of the Moscow Choral College +
Moscow Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Kyrill Kondrashin
rec. Moscow, 1962 (Symphony 4), 1965 (Symphony 6)
MELODIYA MEL CD 10 00986 [70.20]


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.
 
The 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.
 
Weinberg 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.
 
There 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 Records.
 
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.

Jonathan Woolf  
 

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