Claes Gunnarsson / Thord Svedlund

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Cello Concerto; Symphony No. 20

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With the general increase in the popularity of Dmitry Shostakovich's music, that of his protégé Mieczyslaw Weinberg has also been gaining a hearing outside the former East Bloc. A Polish-born Jew, Weinberg survived two waves of Nazi invasion only to find himself buffeted by the same political forces as Shostakovich, by then his mentor, in the postwar Soviet Union. The Cello Concerto in C minor, Op. 43, dating from 1948, is parallel to Shostakovich's works of enforced conservatism from that period, but is somehow more joyful and genuinely melodic. More interesting is the Symphony No. 20, Op. 150, written in 1988 and here receiving its premiere recording. It's a roughly symmetrical five-movement work, on a large orchestral canvas, with slow movements with continuous melody on the outside, scherzo-like pieces of contrasting character second and fourth, and an extremely unusual centerpiece that seems to lose its integrity as it goes along. Weinberg in his later years seems to have tried to pursue avenues suggested by Shostakovich's very personal late works, and this piece, down to the Mahlerian feel, is in that vein. It's not Shostakovich, but it's quite absorbing, and the performances by Sweden's Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra are clean and on top of Weinberg's long lines in the outer movements of the symphony. A strong entry in the catalog of a composer on the rise.

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