MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG: Symphony No. 19 “Bright May,” Op. 142; The Banners of Peace (Symphonic Poem), Op. 143 – St. Petersburg State Sym. Orch./ Vladimir Lande – Naxos 8.572752, 55:36 ****:
Weinberg’s angst-ridden pieces are no doubt the result of his horrific life and the loss of his family in the Holocaust. The two offerings here were composed in 1985. Weinberg died in 1996.
The symphony celebrates the month in which World War II (or more precisely “The Great Patriotic War” as the Russians would have it) ended in 1945. It covers that grim period, but looks to the future with some foreboding.
The tense symphonic expression reflects the influence of Weinberg’s friend and supporter Dmitri Shostakovitch. This music is not Shostakovitch lite, but rather more of an homage. In three movements played without pause, it is a sober reckoning of what happened and what will happen.
The symphonic poem is not as much a blazing glorification of the 27th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, to whom it is dedicated, but rather a sober pronouncement on Weinberg’s continued soul-searching for something in a world gone mad. Again, Shostakovitch is influential.
Weinberg utilizes dissonance freely through these two works. There are hints at Prokofiev’s use of dissonance, but without his resolutions. Mahler also appears from time to time. Whether these references are tributes or not, they give these works a point of reference for the listener.
The conductor Vladimir Lande has the measure of this disturbing music, and the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra is up to the musical task presented to it. The sound is not up to the grand quality of the music. Recorded by a film group, it was made at St. Catherine Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Slowly but surely, Weinberg’s music is appearing on disc with Naxos being one of the prominent contributors.