Weinberg: Symphonies Volume 4

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COMPOSERS: Weinberg
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 1 & 7
PERFORMER: Erik Risberg (harsichord); Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Thord Svedlund
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA 5078

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Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s First Symphony was written in Tashkent in 1942, three years after the young composer had sought refuge in the Soviet Union escaping from Nazi persecution in his native Poland.

It was dedicated to the Red Army as a defiant token of gratitude to the soldiers whose stalwart actions against the German aggressors had helped to save the composer’s life. Yet although militaristic elements are certainly present in the central section of the first movement and in the rather stolid finale, this largely accomplished work encompasses a much wider emotional palette including a lyrically reflective Lento as well as propulsive and ironic scherzo.

Stylistically the Symphony draws upon an intriguing blend of influences ranging from Prokofiev in the contours of the opening melodic idea to Mahler in the serenity and poise of the slow movement, while the scherzo breathes a similar air to the scherzo of Shostakovich’s Sixth.

By the time Weinberg composed his Seventh Symphony for Rudolf Barshai’s Moscow Chamber Orchestra in the mid-1960s he had developed a much stronger musical identity. Imaginatively scored for solo harpsichord and strings, this haunting work – conceived as an unbroken sequence of five movements – culminates in a compelling finale that is particularly notable for employing a wide array of eerie instrumental effects.

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Following on from his successful disc of the composer’s Concertos, Thord Svedlund and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra deliver exemplary performances of both works. Supported by outstanding sound, this release can be confidently recommended to those who enjoyed Chandos’s other fine discs of Weinberg’s Symphonies. Erik Levi