Ilya Gringolts / Jacek Kaspszyk / Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra

Mieczyslaw Weinberg

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Mieczyslaw Weinberg, also known as Moishe or Moisey Vainberg, fled the approaching Nazis and made it to the Soviet Union in 1939. Life was still difficult there (Stalin ordered Weinberg's father-in-law shot), but he managed to get some of his music to Shostakovich, who liked it and was influenced by it. This connection has led to rapid growth in the programming and recording of Weinberg's music, with quite a few recordings on independent labels and now on the major Warner Classics label. Both the Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 67, and the Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 61, were composed in the late 1950s. The concerto, in an unusual four-movement form, gets a crack performance from soloist Ilya Gringolts and the Warsaw Philharmonic under Jacek Kaspszyk, but the work lacks the deep engagement with the concerto tradition that Shostakovich's concertos have. The Symphony No. 4, however, is a real find, and it gets a strong performance here. The opening toccata-like movement might easily be taken for Shostakovich with its mechanistic, dark mood, and the whole thing has an unrelenting sense of depression that gets to the heart of the Soviet experience. Both works have Jewish-sounding themes that, at certain crucial moments, influenced Shostakovich as well. Recommended for those who've had their interest caught by Weinberg and want to try out a recording by a major orchestra, with fine engineering work.

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