Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Chamber Symphony no 1 Op. 145 (1986) [27:35]
Chamber Symphony no 4 in one movement for string orchestra and clarinet Op. 153 (1992) [34:30]
Umeå Symphony Orchestra/Thord Svedlund
rec. Strömbäck Folk High School, Sweden May 1998
previously issued as Olympia OCD651
ALTO ALC 1036 [62:10]

Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Symphony no 2, for string orchestra Op. 30 (1945-46) [32:31]
Chamber Symphony no 2, for string orchestra and timpani Op. 147 (1987) [24:09]
Umeå Symphony Orchestra/Thord Svedlund
rec. Strömbäck Folk High School, Sweden May, September 1998
previously issued as Olympia OCD652
ALTO ALC 1037 [56:48]

Weinberg’s music is now riding a wave. Chandos are steadily recording the symphonies and concertos. Naxos have just issued the second of two discs of his music for solo cello and there seems to be much more to come. I have been remiss in not reviewing these two separate bargain-priced discs before now.

Chamber Symphony No. 1 is a curious work combining the all-conquering charm of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony with a confiding Andante which has a touch of Nystroem about it, a surreptitious halting Allegretto and a vivacious Presto which is reminiscent of Malcolm Arnold at his most flightily affable.

The Chamber Symphony No. 4 is for string orchestra and clarinet. At 34:30 the it is longest of the chamber symphonies. Weinberg's penultimate work, it is dedicated to Boris Tchaikovsky. The lyricism of No. 1 has taken on a moving Tippett-like visionary haze. The work is in one movement but Olympia and now Alto have helpfully laid it out in four tracks. The second segment is a sort of death-hunt where the plugged-in leaping string writing reeks of Bernard Herrmann and angst. There then follows a meditative Adagio in which strings and the soloist conspire. The finale includes a klezmer-accented folksy role for solo clarinet with conversational underpinning from the strings.

Weinberg's Symphony No. 2 springs from a singing string orchestra tradition with its roots in Grieg's Holberg and Tchaikovsky's Serenade. Marry into the mix a degree of tartness from Berg and Schnittke but then soften with some Prokofiev from Romeo and Juliet. Stern thorn branches stiffen viscous blend and in the Adagio the resonance of William Schuman's writing for massed strings is referenced - pure coincidence. There's some playful pizzicato in the Allegretto finale made edgy and witty with material rather akin to Shostakovich.

Wind forward forty years to 1987 and Chamber Symphony No. 2. Here is a work - again for strings - with, this time, timpani. The arching writing is tense and more dense than that of 1946-47 yet lyric material is still accessed as at 2:10.

These four works are classics of the string orchestra genre and recall the Mendelssohn Octet and the Smetana Aus Meinem Leben not to mention, at the other pole, such lightning-conductors as the Shostakovich Sixth Symphony first movement and Pettersson's symphonies 6 and 7.

The notes are by the late Per Skans and are taken from the original Olympia releases of the late 1990s.

The recording is warm and sumptuous.

Rob Barnett

Warm and sumptuous recordings of four twentieth century classics of the North European string orchestra genre.