COMPOSERS: Mieczyslaw Weinberg
ALBUM TITLE: Weinberg
WORKS: Six Ballet Scenes; Symphony No. 22
PERFORMER: Siberian Symphony/Dmitry Vasilyev
CATALOGUE NO: Toccata TOCC 0313
It’s difficult to understand how such an accessible and brilliantly scored orchestral work as Weinberg’s Six Ballet Scenes remained unperformed until last year. The piece dates from 1973 and draws its thematic material from a set of dances originally conceived for an unperformed ballet of 1958 entitled The White Chrysanthemum. As in his slightly earlier ballet score The Golden Key, Weinberg draws much inspiration from Prokofiev, particularly in the final two movements. Yet intriguingly, the largely tonal cast of Weinberg’s ideas coexists alongside more unexpectedly experimental textures including note clusters, 12-note thematic patterns and, perhaps most notably, a demonic fugato that recalls the anarchic contrapuntal writing in Shostakovich’s Second Symphony.
In contrast, the three movement Symphony No. 22, completed only in piano score in the last year of the composer’s life, is much more reflective in expression. Inevitably in a work whose final movement is entitled ‘Reminiscences’, there are several poignant thematic quotations from Weinberg’s earlier works. Kirill Umansky has done a sterling job in orchestrating this somewhat austere work so idiomatically, and aside from a few imprecise bits of wind and brass ensemble, the Siberian Symphony Orchestra under Dmitry Vasilyev performs both pieces with great aplomb.