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Monday, June 9, 2014

Weinberg, Symphony No. 18 "War - There is No Word More Cruel", Trumpet Concerto, St. Petersburg State Symphony, Lande

The renaissance of the music of Weinberg continues. It is quite heartening how much is coming out. So today another new one. Vladimir Lande and the St. Petersburg State Symphony give us his "Symphony No. 18" and "Trumpet Concerto" (Naxos 8.573190).

These are excellently solid performances of works well worth having. Why did the Russians especially do such wonderful symphonies on the theme of World War II? If we look to the US, nothing stands out (at least I cannot think of anything at the moment. . . "Victory at Sea"? Not a symphony.), yet Russia gave us Prokofiev's "Symphony No. 5" and Shostakovitch's "Symphony No. 7", both monumental and incredibly moving. And then Weinberg, with whom we are catching up, did a trilogy of symphonies on the theme, Nos. 17-19. Today the center of the whole, No. 18, which is aptly subtitled "War - There is No Word More Cruel".

We are (or I am) so used to and fond of the Prokofiev and Shostakovich war symphonies that the Weinberg works have to be considered at this point apart. They may not quite compete on first blush with those masterpieces, or do they?

I've been spending time with the 18th and it is as you expect an expressively somber work. It has the Weinberg long form, in a rather modern sounding harmonic palette (it is a later work, 1982-84) and begins with an orchestral movement that has a feeling of grief that is amplified in the three following movements with added chorus. It is a complex work in every way worthy of the later Weinberg and his blossoming during the thaw.

The Trumpet Concerto that is included here, from the sixties, has symphonic dimensions, a penchant for quoting Mendelssohn (and why especially the Wedding March?) and a more playful liveliness that acts as a foil to the ponderous seriousness of his 18th.

This might not be my first choice for those getting to know Weinberg, but it is nonetheless a welcome addition. Lande and the amassed choral and instrumental forces give us a performance worthy of the brilliance of the music. And at the Naxos price it is an attractive package!

Very recommended. Weinberg!

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