Vladimir Lande / St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Symphony No. 6; Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes

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The continuing emergence of the music of Polish-born Russian composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg is cause for celebration. Weinberg did not lack for Soviet champions even in the era of his mentor Shostakovich, whose music his own somewhat resembles. A certain deadly serious tone is common to both, but Weinberg's personality is different; it's less epic, although his orchestral canvas is as large as Shostakovich's. He wrote 26 symphonies, many of which are just receiving their first recordings in the West, with several ongoing series underway. This recording of the Symphony No. 6, Op. 79 (1963), reveals an interesting work but may not be a good starting place except for Russian speakers. The work is in five movements, with a children's choir intoning texts by various poets that form a life narrative from innocence to (this being the middle of the 20th century) mass catastrophe to hope. This is not something Shostakovich would have come up with, and Vladimir Lande, leading the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra and Glinka Choral College Boys' Choir, keeps Weinberg's lines moving along. A major problem for non-Russophones is that Naxos goes on the cheap here, including no texts (not even online, their usual procedure) at all. The Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, Op. 47/1, composed in 1949, doesn't make a persuasive opener, either; this wandering work contains ideas that were done more tightly by any number of other composers, notably Kodály, the primary model. Russian music enthusiasts will celebrate the appearance of any competent performance of music by the underrated Weinberg, but the average listener will do better with one of the Weinberg recordings by Thord Svedlund and the Gothenburg Symphony on the Chandos label.

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