Mieczyslaw Weinberg Symphonies 2 and 7 have hidden depths

This release presents two Mieczyslaw Weinberg string symphonies. The Amadeus Chamber Orchestra of Polish Radio, under the direction of Anna Duczmal-Mroz, turns in a set of fine performances. These works, separated by a span of 18 years, are similar only in the choice of ensemble.

Weinberg in 1946 was just beginning to blossom under Soviet sponsorship. His Symphony No. 2 is a lyrical work, with soft dissonances adding piquancy to the music.

Weinberg’s music is often compared to that of his friend, Shostakovich. Here, I think, the style seems a little closer to Prokofiev’s.

When Weinberg composed his seventh symphony in 1964, he — and his world — were very different. He had survived the Zhdanovshcina of 1948 and the banning of his music. He was arrested in 1953 for Jewish bourgeois nationalism, and “officially rehabilitated.”

The 1964 Symphony No. 7 for string orchestra and harpsichord superficially seems to be a neoclassical work. But there’s a darkness at the heart of the score. The symphony starts out serenely. As it develops though, the dissonances become more prominent, ratcheting up the tension.

At times, the harpsichord seems at odds with the strings. The music sounds fragmented compared to the Second Symphony. And even in the lyrical passages, there’s a hint that something’s not quite right.

Anna Duczmal-Mroz seems to understand the differences between these two works. The Second Symphony sounds relaxed, with full, beautiful ensembles. The Seventh Symphony has a distinct edge to it, and an intensity that reminded me of Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony Op. 110a.

This is a worthy addition to Dux’s exploration of Weinberg’s music.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 7
Amadeus Chamber Orchestra of Polish Radio; Anna Duczmal-Mroz, conductor
DUX 1613

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