WEINBERG Symphony No 21
If Mieczysaw Weinberg (or Moysey Vaynberg, as the Russians knew him) suffered neglect and humiliation during his lifetime, he could take posthumous satisfaction from the fact that some of his vast musical output is at last securing a place in the repertoire, at least on disc. Chandos has a series of symphonies on the go but Toccata Classics has got in first with this premiere recording of Symphony No 21, coupled with Weinberg’s Polish Tunes, Op 47 No 2 (misprinted as No 21 on the back cover).
The two works could scarcely be more diverse. The Polish Tunes date to that dark period after the 1948 condemnation of Soviet composers for ‘clear manifestations of formalistic, anti-democratic tendencies in music, alien to the Soviet people and its artistic tastes’. Weinberg’s wise response was to write the bright, folk-inflected Polish Tunes, skilfully orchestrated and sunny of disposition. Symphony No 21 is another matter. Composed in 1991, its subtitle is Kaddish and it is dedicated ‘to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto’ during the Second World War. It is a striking, viscerally anguished, emotionally powerful piece, as this fine performance by the Siberian Symphony Orchestra under Dmitry Vasilyev underlines. Lament, rage, defiance, horror and numbness are all drawn into the music’s expressive spectrum, with achingly poignant references to Chopin’s G minor Ballade and a final section deploying a soprano voice (Veronika Bartenyeva) in a wordless Requiem. Weinberg’s is a forceful voice in this symphony; its impact is overwhelming.