Weinberg Symphony No. 20

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COMPOSERS: Mieczyslaw Weinberg
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Weinberg Symphony No. 20
WORKS: Symphony No. 20; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Claes Gunnarsson (cello); Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Thord Svedlund
CATALOGUE NO: http://shop.bbcmusicmagazine.com/acatalog/1212_Orchestral.html

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Chandos’s burgeoning Weinberg series goes from strength to strength with this latest stunningly engineered release featuring two works of strikingly different character. Inscrutable, austere and bleak are the adjectives that most obviously spring to mind in describing the 20th Symphony. It was written in 1988, when the composer was in poor health, and dark resonances underpin its two powerfully wrought, framing slow movements. The feeling of desolation is hardly lifted by two bitingly sarcastic scherzos and strangely enigmatic intermezzo. Yet despite its gloomy nature, I found the work very compelling, and it would be difficult to imagine a more assured and committed performance than is provided by the Gothenburg Symphony under Thord Svedlund.

In sharp contrast to the rather abstruse wring in the Symphony, the political constraints of Soviet Realism probably caused Weinberg to adopt a far more accessible musical language in the Cello Concerto. Composed for Mstislav Rostropovich, the work, deserves much wider currency and opens with a hauntingly beautiful Adagio whose main idea lives long in the memory. Claes Gunnarsson delivers a wonderfully passionate rendition of the solo part, probing the heart-rendingly intense, lyrical threnody of the Adagio and revelling in the more high-spirited Jewish and Spanish dance rhythms that inflect the rest of the work.

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Erik Levi