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Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Symphony No. 13, Op. 115 (1976) [34:44]
Serenade, Op. 47 No. 4 (1952) [18:14]
Siberian State Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Lande
rec. 2017, Philharmonic Hall, Krasnoyarsk, Russia
NAXOS 8.573879 [53:04]

Mieczyslaw Weinberg, a native of Warsaw, was forced by the Nazi invasion to move to Minsk in the then USSR. His passport, at that time, showed his name as "Moisey Vainberg" (the name under which Melodiya issued an LP of his Violin Concerto and Symphony 4 in the 1970s - ASD2755). "Vainberg" was a style that stuck until 1982 when the "Weinberg" spelling moved back and supplanted the alias.

There are 26 Weinberg symphonies, 17 string quartets, 7 operas, various song-cycles and much chamber and instrumental music. The composer had a handful of supporters within the USSR but they struggled against many years of studied neglect. However the leading name among his prominent champions was Vladimir Fedoseyev who made various Melodiya recordings of the symphonies. Round about the dawn of the CD these recordings were issued in the West by Olympia: Symphonies 14/18 (Olympia OCD589); Symphony 17 and The Banners of Peace. (Olympia OCD590); and Symphony 19 and Chamber Symphony No. 3 (Olympia OCD591).

Naxos now serve up a first recording of the Weinberg Symphony No. 13 - serious and sombre, though not without its moments of explosive celebration - alongside a work from the more relaxed and populist aspect of the composer's persona. A single unbroken span of 35 minutes, this recording of Symphony No. 13, dedicated to the memory of the composer's mother, now joins Naxos's other discs presenting many of the Weinberg symphonies: No. 6 - review, No. 8 - review, No. 12 - review, No. 17 - review and No. 19 - review. There's nothing of Kapustin's "tin-pan alley" or the Moscow marketplace about this music. A long, searching and, at times, sour line is carried by the strings spun in something like the manner of Allan Pettersson. This sings in funereal intensity (4:30) reminiscent of William Schuman. The sinuous unwinding of this gripping music (9:22) is subject to a gradual and irresistible accretion of tension. It serves as a companion to Shostakovich in the indomitable first movement of his Sixth Symphony. As if to introduce an element of urgency, even victory, we get some ripe whooping horns at 14:00. At 15:51 a Lisztian solo violin suddenly takes the foreground, acting as a hortator for the whole orchestra which responds in kind. The horns loft their warning again, but this time with an overtone of exhortation to slaughter. The music subsides into a commingling of bleakness and tenderness (27:57) curving down into a thoughtful silence.

The other work - the Serenade - is in sturdy contrast to the Symphony. It starts with an Allegretto that is folksy, very accessible, smooth and sweetened. It has the feel of 1950s film music in a countryside setting. The Allegro molto is a bright folk-dance: Kodaly with a Prokofiev-skirl. The short Adagio leads off with a slightly morose clarinet which finds its way to an easily strolling theme that might have been a Finzi Bagatelle or a Vaughan Williams Study in English Folk Song or a movement from the Suite for Viola. The final Allegro Giocoso is bouncy and is almost flippantly handled. The resemblance is to Khachaturian in his Masquerade suite but with the neon glare diffused. It also reminds me of some of Evgeny Svetlanov's folk-inspired orchestral works: Siberian Fantasy and The Red Guelder Rose.

If you were wondering about the earlier components of Op. 47 then the note by Richard Whitehouse identifies them as Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes (1949) "whether in its orchestral version (Op. 47, No. 1) Naxos 8.572779 or that with violin (Op. 47, No. 3)" while Op. 47 No. 2 is the Suite on Polish Tunes (Op. 47, No. 2).

The liner-notes are good and they hit all the right marks. As for the audio-technical aspects, these are spectacularly and poetically handled in Krasnoyarsk's Philharmonic Hall, which is some 500 miles to the west of one of Russia other musical centres, Novosibirsk.

Rob Barnett


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