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Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Fantasia for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 52 (1951-53) [18:51]
Concerto No. 2 for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 148 (1987) [19:31]
Concerto (No. 1) for Flute and String Orchestra, Op. 75 (1961) [14:43]
Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, Op. 104 (1970) [25:49]
Claes Gunnarsson (cello); Anders Jonhall (flute); Urban Claesson (clarinet)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Thord Svedlund
rec. Concert Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden, 13-15 June (Fantasia, Flute Concertos), 19-20 December (Clarinet Concerto) 2005. DDD
CHANDOS CHSA5064 [79:25]
Experience Classicsonline

The Polish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg wrote 26 symphonies, 17 string quartets, seven operas, twenty-six sonatas and ten works for solo instrument and orchestra. Taking various labels together - and in recent years especially Chandos - we now have quite a few of the symphonies on disc though well less than half the total number. Here is a selection from his concertante works.
The three movement Fantasia for Cello and Orchestra took two years in the writing. The first movement has the soloist musing in unpained melancholia amid some utopian pastoral idyll. The second movement dances and chuffs happily with some sarcasm lightly added by the brass. The finale returns to the warm sunshine of Palladian fields for a fleetingly short epilogue recalling the mood of the first movement. It seems never to have been performed in orchestral format although Daniil Shafran premiered it in a version with piano in 1953.
The Second Flute Concerto is with full orchestra and is dedicated to Alexander Korneyev. The torture of the symphonies is completely absent with the classical peace of the Fantasia also evident here. And yet there is also present a cool breeze and sometimes a chill. Weinberg’s propensity for innocent song I associate with the Nielsen Flute Concerto. As with the Fantasia the music is completely tonal-melodic. The piece ends in suave and sunny contentment.
The First Flute Concerto is for flute and string orchestra. It dates from the same years as the Violin Concerto and the revisions to the symphonies 3 and 4. It is also dedicated to Korneyev. The clouds descend oppressively for the hesitant central movement where the soloist’s line seems to proceed under a louring firmament that threatens destruction at any moment. The voice of Klezmer can be heard fleetingly in the finale as can, once again, the Nielsen Flute Concerto. The final abrupt ending is shriekingly brilliant.
The Clarinet Concerto is again in three movements. Here the mood is more circumscribed than that of the Fantasia. Not exactly ascetic, the writing is not exuberant. Although athletic material is there the general character is similar yet again to the Nielsen of the Flute Concerto rather than the strained and remote distances of the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto. The finale has the gamin and easy-going charm of Malcolm Arnold but with added pepper from Shostakovich.
The finely supportive notes are by David Fanning who is writing the study of the life of Weinberg.
The present disc joins the current Chandos-Weinberg-Chmura line-up of:-
Vol. 1: Symphony 5, Sinfonietta 1 CHAN 10128
Vol. 2: Symphony 4, Sinfonietta 2 CHAN 10237
Vol. 3: Symphonies 14, 16 CHAN 10334
Add to this list the Melodiya disc of Symphonies 4 and 6.
The present Chandos issue is another disc to show that the music of Russia is a much broader church than the image presented by Shostakovich and Prokofiev. These works could in the broadest sense be said to belong on the same shelf and sector as the Malcolm Arnold concertos. They are concise, full of song and atmosphere yet shot through with chilly shafts of Northern light.
Rob Barnett


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