- Suite for orchestra
The Polish-born Soviet composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg (also known as Moishe Vainberg and by other names) was close to Shostakovich, who admired him and may have saved his life on one occasion. He was quite prolific and did not quite have Shostakovich's talent for catching the zeitgeist, but the best of his work easily stands up to comparison with that of the older Russian master. This release from the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra of Krasnoyarsk (geographically remote but entirely adequate to the music) under Vladimir Lande would make a good place to start with Weinberg. The two works on the program are strikingly different from each other, and the opening piece, the 1950 "Suite for Orchestra," is a world-premiere recording that's worth the purchase price in itself. This is a suite of dances written in the officially acceptable neo-classic manner, and its blithe elegance will be a great surprise to those who know Weinberg only from his generally weighty symphonies. It fits with the music Shostakovich was writing around the 1950s, at the height of Stalin's cultural restrictions, but Weinberg seems to have put his heart into the project more than Shostakovich did with such music, and it may well bring to mind the hits from Prokofiev's ballets or even Carl Nielsen's "Maskarade." The "Symphony No. 17, Op. 137 (Memory)," written the early 1980s, is something else again. Part of a trilogy, the work has a Mahlerian feel, if not a similar scope. It does not have an explicit program, but its dedication to the Soviet war dead and an epigraph by Anna Akhmatova make the subject matter clear. The frequent mood of dark sarcasm and anger will be familiar to Shostakovich enthusiasts, but there is a distinctive quality to Weinberg's rendition, related perhaps to its distance in time from the events evoked: the work is a commentary on war in a way that Shostakovich's World War II works are not. In any event, the ongoing rediscovery of Weinberg's music is well served by this release.