MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG: Symphony No. 17 “Memory” – Vienna Sym./ Vladimir Fedoseyev – Neos multichannel SACD 11126, TT: 53:01 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996) was a Polish Jew who fled to Russia (Minsk) in 1939 after the Germans invaded Poland. His parents and sister were sent from the Warsaw ghetto to the forced labor camp of Trawniki (east of Lublin) where they were murdered in 1943.
In 1941 he had to flee again (this time to Tashkent) when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. He married and eventually ended up in Moscow. He became a friend of Dmitri Shostakovitch. In early 1953, the Russian authorities arrested him. Stalin’s death in March 1953 prevented Weinberg’s death.
This brief history gives the listener some idea of the harrowing life Weinberg lived. It is reflected in his Symphony No. 17 “Memory,” Op.137, composed between 1982 and 1984.
The symphony was dedicated to the Russian conductor of this recording, Vladimir Fedoseyev, so he has some special claim on the symphony’s interpretation which is expert. The symphony is for large orchestra. It is beautifully played by the Vienna Symphony and was extremely well recorded by Neos and ORF (Austrian Broadcasting) at the Bregenz Festival in 2010.
Weinberg (sometimes spelled Vainberg), whose music nearly disappeared before being rediscovered in the 1990s, is considered a Soviet composer and is in the Shostakovitch vein. In fact, there are direct references if not quotes from composers as varied as Shostakovitch, Prokofiev, Holst, Bruckner and, of all composers, Bernard Hermann. The symphony is masterfully composed, but does not have any of the sarcastic humor Shostakovitch employed so effectively in his symphonies.
The German company Neos’ multi-fold package is a wonderful replacement for the horrid jewel box. It contains the SACD, a easily removable booklet (from a pocket) with program notes and biographies in German, English, French and Polish. There are photos and extensive information about everyone involved in this enterprise. This SACD is volume two in Neos’ Weinberg Edition and is part of the Polska Music grant program.
Exploring Weinberg’s music is worth the effort. Highly recommended!
A dream Johnny Hodges tribute project by Owen Broder…