Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Weinberg: Symphony No. 6 - A Russian composer is given his due

Weinberg: Symphony No. 6 - Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes   
St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra
Vladimir Lande, conductor
Glinka Choral College Boys' Choir

Mieczyslaw Weinberg was a close personal friend as well as a colleague of Shostakovitch, and that relationship shows in his music. His Sixth Symphony opens in a manner that sounds (to my ears) very much like Shostakovitch. But while there are some stylistic similarities, there are also plenty of differences.

Weinberg was an imaginative orchestrator, particularly with his use of brass instruments. This programmatic work has a powerful message. The symphony begins with a celebration of the care-free days of youth, and moves through the horrors of war (and the death of childhood) to a tentative hope for the future. Weinberg's sparing use of a boys' choir makes the message all the more effective.

The second work on the disc is a shorter Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes. The rich melodic content of this composition makes it instantly attractive. Weinberg sounds less like Shostakovitch here (perhaps its the choice of subject matter). The music flows along in a relentless fashion, with plenty of energy and high-spirited dance motifs that almost beg to be choreographed.

Vladimir Lande leads the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra in the performance of these works. The playing is first-rate, which really helps further the cause for these relatively unknown compositions. If you aren't familiar with Mieczyslaw Weinberg, this release is a good place to start.


  1. That was really striking. A very emotionally hard-edged sound. I agree that it sounded a lot like DS, but with its own poignant edge. I'd like to hear the Moldavian stuff as well; I may go and check that out.

    You may be glad to know that I'd trying to keep up my WTJU listening while in Europe -- listening to Gamut from Bayreuth. What devoted listeners you have!

  2. John:

    That is devotion, indeed! I'll definitely be airing the Moldavian work in the near future. Weinberg may have resembled Shostakovich in some ways, but he definitely had an original compositional voice. Some (but not all) of his other 20+ symphonies are available -- I'll be tracking those down as well. Thanks for listening, even from afar!