WEINBERG Violin Concerto. Symphony No 4
Back in the mid-1970s, HMV included these two works among the carefully selected Soviet repertoire they issued on licence from Melodiya. Those performances – Kondrashin conducting, with Leonid Kogan in the Concerto – resurfaced on CD in the late 1990s, as part of Olympia’s pioneering Weinberg survey. Now the same works appear again but in the context of a more dramatic international re-evaluation of the composer.
In recent years the Poles have gone some way towards re-adopting Weinberg (a native Varsovian) to the extent of actually leading the way with his symphonies. The Fourth Symphony is probably the most immediately appealing of the cycle of 26, with a slow movement of both delicacy and depth of feeling that draws on Weinberg’s own songs – the most conspicuous remaining gap in his recorded output. Jacek Kaspszyk takes a more relaxed approach than either Kondrashin or Gabriel Chmura; but, much as I admire his poise and sprightliness, there is considerably more drive and relish in both rival versions.
Gringolts and Kaspszyk again take more time over the Concerto than either Kogan and Kondrashin or the recent Linus Roth and Mihkel Kütson. The results are similar to the Symphony, in that the attractive nuances and shades uncovered are outweighed, for me at least, by a definite loss in terms of dash and urgency. Some may prefer the slightly more recessed orchestral balance. But here, too, I favour the edgier, more forward sound of the rival versions, and in the Symphony the Warsaw Philharmonic is outplayed by its Katowician counterpart.
Kaspszyk has come in for some scorn in the blogosphere for having his name larger than the composer’s on the CD cover. But surely he couldn’t have been so crass. I’m more inclined to suspect Warner’s designers, who also saddle the issue with an ugly grey-and-yellow card casing, a pointless oblong format and barely legible upper-case fonts.