ALBUM TITLE: Weinberg: Symphony No. 18
WORKS: Trumpet Concerto, Op. 94; Symphony No. 18 ‘War – there is no word more cruel’, Op. 138
PERFORMER: Andrew Balio (trumpet); St Petersburg Chamber Choir; St Petersburg State Symphony/Vladimir Lande
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573190
The fourth disc in Naxos’s burgeoning Weinberg series couples two stylistically disparate works from the later part of the composer’s career. First up is the Trumpet Concerto (1966-67), which has previously been recorded a number of times, most memorably by Sergei Nakariakov on Teldec. The present performance boasts a compelling contribution from Andrew Balio, who revels in the witticisms of the Finale while also encapsulating the darker undertones of the wistful central movement. The St Petersburg State Symphony offers strong support, though the scalic exchanges between trumpet and orchestra in the opening movement would have benefited from more incisive ensemble in the strings.
Nearly 18 years later, Weinberg completed his 18th Symphony, the centrepiece of a trilogy of symphonic works exploring the nightmarish legacy of the Second World War which had such profound repercussions both for Weinberg, most of whose family perished in the Holocaust, and for the Soviet nation. In contrast to the purely orchestral 17th and 19th Symphonies, the present somewhat dour work assigns a major role to the chorus, which takes centre stage after a lengthy orchestral introduction in evocative settings of three contrasting poems. Helpfully, Naxos’s detailed booklet contains both the original Russian texts and English translations of this material. While it displays effective orchestral playing, however, this performance is disadvantaged by the uneven singing of the St Petersburg Chamber Choir – the words in the more densely scored passages of the third movement are particularly difficult to discern.