WEINBERG: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 10 – Kirill Kondrashin/ Rudolf Barshai / The Moscow Philharmonic Orch. / The Moscow Ch. Orch. – Melodiya

WEINBERG: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 10 – Kirill Kondrashin/ Rudolf Barshai / The Moscow Philharmonic Orch. / The Moscow Chamber Orch. – Melodiya MELCD 1002281 (Note: Rec. 1975 and 1970)  75:32 (4/14/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Weinberg is a fine composer, who lived in the shadow of his mentor Shostakovich, but Shostakovich deeply admired Weinberg’s talent.

The collection being reviewed here features Symphonies Nos. 5 and the Symphony No. 10 composed during the period of the composer’s most intensive creative activity in 1960s. The Fifth Symphony is philosophical and deep with a wealth of slow tempos. The Tenth Symphony was one of the composer’s creative peaks. The Tenth combines traditional symphonic forms with 20th-century invention.

Kirill Kondrashin and Rudolf Barshai, conducting these works on this CD, played a significant part in popularizing Weinberg’s works. Many of Weinberg’s composition were performed for the first time by the orchestras founded by the two conductors – the Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic Society and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. The Fifth Symphony was recorded by Kondrashin in 1975, and the Tenth one by Barshai in 1970, and this recording is drawn from those performances.

I’ve reviewed some previous works by Weinberg before, and found them musically satisfying and deeply moving. I can certainly say the same about these two symphonies.

The Fifth Symphony was written in 1962 and dedicated to Kondrashin. It’s a lovely work, with an exuberant third movement.  The Symphony No. 10 represents to many observers the peak of Weinberg’s creative output. The work was written in 1968, and premiered by Barshai, who conducts it in this recording. It’s a five-movement composition combining the concert form with 20th-century techniques like polymelodic overlapping. It’s very different in character from the Fifth, but compelling in its own right.

The recording on this 2-channel CD is quite good  Shimmering highs, and a solid bass line compliment a well thought out microphone placement that gives us a solid orchestral image. It’s not the latest in digital recording, and clearly started life on analog tape, but no matter, this is a fine presentation that captures the excellent performances of these symphonies.

Some say Weinberg is the third great Soviet composer, behind Shostakovich and Prokofiev. That may be a little strong, considering the roster of fine Soviet composers, but Weinberg was a major talent, too often overlooked.  This recording of two of his symphonies helps restore the balance. Recommended!

—Mel Martin

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