ALBUM TITLE: Weinberg
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 14 & 16
PERFORMER: National Polish Radio SO, Katowice/Gabriel Chmura
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10334
These two symphonies triumphantly disprove the notion that Mieczys?aw Weinberg’s music amounts to little more than a pale imitation of his mentor Shostakovich. Indeed, apart from the grotesque dance rhythms that percolate the Allegro of the 14th Symphony of 1977, there is practically no evidence of a direct stylistic connection between the two composers here. Rather a whiff of Bartók can be discerned in some of the string writing, whilst the scoring for wind, brass and percussion offers faint echoes of Stravinsky. Yet this kind of categorisation doesn’t really communicate the evident strengths of Weinberg’s writing.
Both symphonies are conceived as unbroken multi-section one-movement works alternating music that is dark, threatening and sometimes mysterious with sections that are more grandiose in conception, the latter quality coming to the fore most impressively at the close of the 14th. Perhaps Weinberg’s sometimes astringent melodic lines don’t immediately imprint themselves on the memory, but there’s no doubting the composer’s masterly handling of the orchestra and his ability to develop an epic symphonic argument that at the same time maintains a sense of cogency.
As with previous recordings in this cycle Gabriel Chmura and the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra deliver powerful and compelling performances, and the engineering matches Chandos’s usual high standards. Erik Levi