Weinberg: Symphony No. 8 (Polish Flowers)
Naxos seems to be stealing a march on Chandos with their own enterprising series of Weinberg symphonies. Here they come up trumps with the world premiere release of the Eighth, a choral symphony first performed in Moscow in 1966. This powerful work, setting a sequence of ten poems by Julian Tuwim that reflects on Poland’s tragic fate throughout its history, has an obvious autobiographical resonance given the composer’s own circumstances which necessitated escape from his native country when it was occupied by the Nazis.
Inevitably the mood of much of the music is oppressive and troubled, though the final movement, ‘The Vistula flows’, offers some semblance of hope and optimism in its concluding passages. As with Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony and Britten’s War Requiem, both of them models for this work, Weinberg deploys his large forces sparingly and with great textural variety. A particularly haunting moment comes at the opening of the eighth movement entitled ‘Mother’ where the tenor solo intones a poignant lament over disembodied harmonies sustained by a wordless chorus.
It was a masterstroke on the part of Naxos to use Polish forces. Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra already have a wonderful track record in releases of large-scale choral works, and deliver a performance of searing intensity.