Vladimir Lande / St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra

Weinberg: Symphony No. 19; Banners of Peace

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Thanks in part to the efforts of conductor Vladimir Lande and the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, featured here, the large orchestral output of Polish-born Russian composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg is getting a second look. During his career he faced many of the same issues Shostakovich did, but his musical solutions to those issues are often different and quite fresh. Like Shostakovich, he went through enforced phases of trying to please Soviet authority, and the two works on this album seem to belong to one of those phases. The Symphony No. 19, Op. 142 ("Bright May"), is the more interesting work. The title refers not to the 1917 May revolution but to the Soviet Union's final victory over Nazi Germany in May 1945. You might not guess that that was the topic if you listened to the work cold; the extremely variegated first movement mixes triumphant passages in brass with pastoral scenes, as if the composer were surveying a devastated landscape. The movement ends in great uncertainty, and that mood pervades the entire symphony. The work doesn't have the memorable tunes that Shostakovich offers, but it has a style of its own. The shorter tone poem The Banners of Peace, Op. 143, dates from the same year; it is a more bombastic work whose conclusion, even annotator Richard Whitehouse concedes, is most notable for "its evident lack of irony." The orchestra, made up of players for whom stuff like this was written, does quite well, and those who have discovered Weinberg along the way will find the music interesting. Those who want to sample this composer, though, might try one of the earlier symphonies released in Naxos' series devoted to his music.

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