Mieczyslaw Weinberg Symphony No. 13 – honest intensity

Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s 13th Symphony isn’t a pleasant work to listen to. But then, it’s not meant to be. Weinberg dedicated this 1979 work to the memory of his mother. She, along with Weinberg’s father and sister, perished in a Polish transit camp during WWII. Weinberg effectively translates his still-raw emotions into music.

The symphony is harsh and unrelenting, pulling fragmented blocks of melody together as it gathers momentum. Not pleasant, but certainly powerful. Weinberg uses his orchestral resources effectively, using the full ensemble sparingly. The end result (to my ears), is a collection of small chamber ensembles that swirl about each other, constantly coming together and pulling apart.

Coupled with this masterwork is the Serenade No. 4 — which is quite pleasant to listen to. In 1952 the Zhdanov Doctrine was in effect. Soviet music must serve the people (as opposed to “art for art’s sake”). The 1952 Serenade is bright, cheery, and full of hummable melodies. In many ways, it reminds me of Dag Wiren’s Serenade. The tunes are catchy, set over simple harmonies. It’s a perfect emotional balance to the 13th Symphony.

Vladimir Lande and the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra perform admirably. The orchestra delivers the emotional power of the 13th Symphony. And they play the Serenade in a light-hearted manner. Every installment in their traversal of Weinberg’s symphonies has been immensely satisfying. As is this release.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Symphony No. 13
Siberian State Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Lande, conductor
Naxos 8.573879

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