Mieczysław Weinberg. Symphonies no 1 & 7
These works are among the most outstanding neoclassical symphonic pieces of the 20th century. Along with a perfect command of form and composition technique, these pieces are characterized by great emotional expression, movement and vitality and an unusual kaleidoscope of orchestral color.
Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996), a native of Warsaw, and a prolific pianist and composer, may well be more familiar in Moscow today than in his native Poland. He was born into a musical Jewish family, and his father Samuil Moiseyevich and mother Sonia were well-known figures in the Yiddish Theater. The young artist fled to the USSR shortly after the start of World War II leaving behind his family who were taken by the Nazis and eventually died in the Trawniki concentration camp. He left Poland with only a handful of belongings and a diploma from the Warsaw Conservatory where he studied piano under the guidance of Józef Turczyński.
He initially settled in Minsk where he studied composition in the class of Vassily Zolotaryov from 1939 to 1941. In 1941, he moved to Taszkient in Uzbekistan to work in the local opera house. Two years later he sent a manuscript of his Symphony number 1 to Dmitrij Szostakowicz in Moscow, which initiated a lifelong friendship. Weinberg went to Moscow at Szostakowicz’s invitation, where he lived until the end of his life. He concentrated mainly on piano studies and wrote music for film. He was a prolific composer, but his major compositions remained unpublished and unperformed in his drawer - despite the large volume and the high praise of such acclaimed writers as Szostakowicz, or Mścisław Rostropowicz.
Weinberg left behind 26 symphonies, 7 concertos, 17 string quartets, 19 sonatas, at least 150 songs, 7 operas and 2 ballets. He also created 65 film and animation scores, musical scores for theatre and radio shows. Many of these were published only after his death and today they appear in both Russian and Polish concert programmes and in orchestras all over the world.
The National Orchestra of Sweden conducted by Thord Svedlund made the most recent recording, for his Symphonies 1 and 7. These, two symphonies chosen from Weinberg’s sizable output - First G Minor from 1942, dedicated to the Red Army and Seventh C Major for the harpsichord and a string orchestra from 1964, written for the violinist and founder of the Borodin Quartet, Rudola Barshai - give a good insight into the composer’s craft. There are admirable polyphonic sections (the monumental fugue as the first part of the Symphony nr 1), a lively variety of textural concepts, richness of melodic invention and a swiftly led musical narrative. Both compositions are merely a taste of Weinberg’s orchestral body of work. They are beautifully performed by the Swedish artists and are surely an invitation to discover the other 24 symphonies of the great Polish composer.
Mieczysław Weinberg. Symphonies no. 1 & 7
Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony nr 1 G minor op. 10, Symphony nr 7 C major op. 81. Erik Risberg - harpsichord, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, dir. Thord Svedlund. Chandos Records Ltd 2010 - CHSA 5078, 69'23.
Author: Anna Iwanicka-Nijakowska