Weinberg Elevates Socialist Realism

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Mieczyslaw Weinberg couldn’t write bad music if he wanted to. His Nineteenth Symphony was composed in 1985 to commemorate the end of the Second World War. Cast in a single movement, the music is hardly celebratory, if by that we mean pompous and noisy. The music essentially represents repeated efforts to find peace. Woodwinds imitate birdsong, at first frighteningly (vultures?) and at last tranquilly. More warlike elements intervene at regular intervals; the overall atmosphere is seldom actually joyous. The symphony ends softly, in a mood that recalls the conclusion of Honegger’s Symphonie liturgique. It’s a very serious piece, no doubt about it.

As for the symphonic poem The Banners of Peace, again, the actual music belies the propaganda suggested by the title. The work allegedly employs some revolutionary songs as thematic material, but these sound as much like Weinberg as American tunes do Copland or English folksong Vaughan Williams. Dating from the same year as the symphony, the music is obviously cut from the same cloth. That said, I wouldn’t play both works at a single sitting; the overall impression might come across as excessively glum, and the earnestness of both of these pieces deserves independent consideration. It may not be music of immediate appeal, but it does grow on you.

The performances represent the music well. Weinberg writes very difficult solo parts, especially for horns and trumpets, and while there are a couple of perilous moments, the players handle them bravely. Vladimir Lande conducts both works sympathetically, although in the symphony a slightly swifter basic tempo might have been appropriate. The sonics are vivid, warm, and well-balanced. Good stuff.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: No reference recording

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