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Weinberg: Symphonies Vol 3 / Chmura, Et Al

Release Date: 11/21/2006 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10334   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Conductor:  Gabriel Chmura
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WEINBERG Symphonies: No 14, op. 117 . No. 16, op. 131 Gabriel Chmura, cond; Polish Natl RSO CHANDOS 10334 (63:42)

We recently had a rare and interesting glance at Weinberg’s music (RCA 87769) before his lengthy friendship with Shostakovich and their mutual study of works-in-progress. Now Chandos provides us with two examples of Weinberg after Shostakovich’s death, in 1975. While the Polish composer is heard here emerging Read more stylistically from his older associate’s manner, the virtues of his symphonic works are a matter of continuation, rather than resumption: arresting thematic material, a sure dramatic hand, ideas suited to their distinctive orchestration, and a masterful manipulation of large-scale movement structures.

The Symphony No. 14 was composed in 1977 and dedicated to the excellent conductor Vladimir Fedoseyev. It is a single movement work, with four clearly audible sections. The opening begins slowly with one of those eerie string lines (here given to the violas) Shostakovich liked to employ, before its content moves to the winds and subsequently to increasingly large blocks of the orchestra. Contrast arrives in the second section, a Scherzo that initially gives a colorful, very sardonic, and fragmented treatment to a succession of Polish folk dances. This mood shifts midway through into a transformed and lengthy recollection of the work’s opening theme, with a growing sense of oppression that only momentarily gives way to tatters of the folk material.

The third section is a meditative, chamber-like Adagio, interrupted at one point by mocking recollections of the Scherzo. The finale begins with a horn call, but can hardly be called “epical,” as a contemporary Soviet review quoted in the liner notes remarks. Instead, the horn call forms the main material of the conclusion, sometimes affirmative but also uneasy, and on occasion threatening. The final bars are neither unrestrainedly heroic nor massive; rather, they end the symphony on an equivocal note where loud affirmation is repeatedly interrupted by muted fears. The remaining echoes of Shostakovich in Weinberg’s style don’t get in the way of a decidedly original symphonic statement, one that is definitely worth hearing.

Much the same can be said of the Symphony No. 16, premiered in 1982. Its single movement takes the form of a modified sonata allegro. The opening is oppressive, a series of jagged ideas presented by sections of the orchestra over implacable drum beats that recall Brahms’s Symphony No. 1. Once its energy is spent, the strings launch on a vigorous thematic group, countered by more lyrical content from the winds. (Aside from a lovely flute solo that turns into a flute duet, the major influence would seem to be Bartók, whom Weinberg greatly admired, rather than Shostakovich.) A hectic and tense development section ensues, followed by a free recapitulation that leads to a lyrical but ambiguous conclusion. Throughout, the scale of musical organization is suited to the length of a single-movement work, the first thematic group having its say in over six minutes, for example, while the second group takes nearly as long. There is never any sense of over-extension, however. Weinberg treats each thematic group as its own development cell before combining the two. These unite the various sections of the symphony; and instead of sprawling, the work achieves a sense of concentration and accomplishment.

Chmura is marginally less successful here than in his last volume of this music for Chandos (10237). The strings of the National Polish RSO are occasionally frayed, and there is at times an emotional restraint that rests awkwardly on Weinberg’s emotive work. In one area there is an improvement: the passages of raucous humor in the Symphony No. 16 have more point than in the conductor’s other Weinberg album.

Sound quality is good, with excellent balance between the sections. The informed liner notes quote from contemporary reviews of both works without establishing context, so that code words are taken at face value. (The Symphony No. 14 possessing a “national back-to-the-soil style?” How the composer must have privately laughed when that first appeared!) In short, this is another fine addition to the slowly growing repertoire of Weinberg on CD, an oversight that should have been rectified, long ago.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 16, Op. 131 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Conductor:  Gabriel Chmura
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1981; USSR 
Symphony no 14, Op. 117 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Conductor:  Gabriel Chmura
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977; Poland 

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