Thord Svedlund / Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Weinberg: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 7

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Thord Svedlund has previously made three recordings of the orchestral music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg. First was his 1998 recording of the Polish-Russian modernist's First and Fourth chamber symphonies issued first on Olympia and later on Alto, then his 1999 version of the Second Symphony and Second Chamber Symphony, likewise issued on Olympia and then Alto, then his 2005 recording of four of Weinberg's concertos issued by Chandos. Now, Svedlund at last gets his crack at two full-fledged symphonies, No. 1 and No. 7, with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra on Chandos, and the results are stunning.

Weinberg's First has had only one previous recording, by Alexander Titov and the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony, and while it is more than serviceable, it cannot compare with this account. Written in 1942 and dedicated to the Red Army, the First is the smoothest and by far the most sincere pastiche of Shostakovich and Prokofiev's styles imaginable, and if it does not quite touch the depths of Shostakovich's Seventh or Eighth, or Prokofiev's Fifth or Sixth, it comes closer than any other Russian modernist symphony.

The competition is tougher in the Seventh because its only other recorded performance was made by its dedicatee, Rudolf Barshai, and it is hard to top the gritty integrity of his 1967 recording. Conducting with rare sensitivity, Svedlund comes very close, with committed playing from the Gothenburg musicians. Chandos' clear, colorful, and immediate sound beats the heck out of Barshai's cold, gray Soviet-era sound. Fans of Shostakovich and Prokofiev owe it to themselves to try this disc.

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