- Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 100
- Symphony No. 5 in F minor, Op. 76
Poland's Sinfonia Iuventus, an orchestra gathering together top graduates and students from the country's music schools, has leapfrogged many of its Western European counterparts, appearing on recordings that are impressive by any standard. The members have been pushed to punch above their weight by their two patrons, Krzysztof Penderecki, who conducted the group in an acclaimed recording of his symphonic music, and conductor and founder Jerzy Semkow. Here, under conductor Gabriel Chmura, they achieve strong results. The programming concept, pairing the fifth symphonies of Mieczyslaw Weinberg and Sergey Prokofiev, is a bit arbitrary; the two works do not occupy comparable positions in their composers' oeuvres. But individually, the story is something else again. Poland has rediscovered its native son Mieczyslaw Weinberg, who fled to the Soviet Union during World War II. He never studied formally with Shostakovich, but he was both influenced and championed by the older composer. The influence takes various forms, but in the "Symphony No. 5 in F minor, Op. 76," it lies on the surface, and this may be a good place to start for those new to Weinberg's music. Sample the finale to hear both the notable influence of Mahler, largely ahead of when Shostakovich came to it, and the adept handing of the small concertante groupings, including really haunting celesta passages, by Sinfonia Iuventus. The Prokofiev "Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 100," of 1944, preternaturally sunny despite the chaos that must have been just outside the composer's doors, does not quite have the elfin spark that animates the best performances of the work, but it's nowhere less than competently done. A significant recording by an important new ensemble.