Weinberg Symphony No. 12 & The Golden Key

January 29, 2014

weinberg 12


NAXOS #8573085

Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996) was born to a Jewish family in Warsaw. His father was a composer and he had a mother who was an actress in the Yiddish theater. He entered the Warsaw Conservatory at the age of 12, graduated in 1939 and promptly fled to the Soviet Union to avoid Hitler and the outbreak of the war. It was after this move that he met Shostakovich and they became lifelong friends. He was quite a prolific composer which included 22 symphonies, 17 quartets, and 7 operas.

Symphony #12 was written in memory of Shostakovich in 1976 but wasn’t performed until 1979 by the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maxim Shostakovich. It is nearly 60 minutes in length and relies on the entire orchestra to accomplish its goal of honoring Shostakovich which it does in fine fashion. The first movement an allegro moderato begins with an eye opening theme taking two minutes before the dissonant brass offer a counterpoint. A second theme is introduced by the strings and the woodwinds which build in intensity as it is being developed. There is a return to the main theme again before it ends on an empty note. The allegretto theme is offered by the strings with the harmony coming from the lower register of the strings. The trumpet and brass exchange calling back and forth to one another. While this is certainly not melodic it is also not atonal but something in between. It ends in an abrupt manner. The adagio theme is highly addicting moving from instrument to instrument reaching the timpani which will grab your attention on repeated listens. It continues to the bassoon and bass violin ending there in silence. The final movement an allegro immediately grabs your attention as the marimba quietly plunks the melody against a background of strings. It turns from somewhat peaceful to jagged in nature like something Prokofiev or Shostakovich would have composed. The brass takes over the melody turning it into a mocking distorted phrase.

This is not a work that is going to be an instant love affair for you. I’ve listened to it a minimum of 20 times before I have grown to appreciate what nice work this is and the memorial to Shostakovich.

Having said what I did in the previous paragraph the opposite is true of “The Golden Key.” I instantly thought it was Prokofiev and Shostakovich combined with a hint of Tchaikovsky in the second movement “Elegy.” The opening movement “Buratino’s Dance with the Key” is a rousing uplifting way to begin the work with a melody you’ll instantly remember. “Dance of the Artemon” features some fine bassoon work before it gives way to a great orchestral arrangement offering a mocking trumpet.”Dance of the Cricket” is a brief but humorous interlude before “Dance of the Cat” takes over with melody coming from the strings in a folksy type Russian melody. “Dance of Shushera the Rat” begins in disturbing fashion followed by the plodding of orchestra. Growling horns add to the uncomfortable motif. “The Lesson” begins with another lively theme before it ends with a nice gallop pace from the trumpet not unlike Prokofiev. “The Pursuit,” the final selection is a potpourri of tempos and styles with chase music mixed in. It would play nicely against a silent film with the train coming and villain and hero fighting.

This is the third recording of Weinberg Symphonies done by Vladimir Lande and the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra the other two being Symphony #19 (#8572752) and Symphony #6 (#8572779). This reviewer hopes that there will be more in the future. The quality of the recording and the performance of the symphony and conductor are top drawer.


Track Listing:

Symphony No. 12 ‘In memoriam D. Shostakovich’ (1976)

1… Allegro moderato (20:40)

2… Allegretto (8:20)

3… Adagio (11:06)

4… Allegro (17:13)

The Golden Key-Ballet

Suite No. 4 (1954-55)

5… Burattino’s Dance with the Key (2:13)

6… Elegy (3:13)

7… Dance of Artemon (1:13)

8… Dance of the Cricket (0:54)

9… Dance of the Cat and the Fox (1:35)

10. Dance of Shushera the Rat (1:41)

11. The Lesson (2:48)

12. The Pursuit (4:43)

Total Time is 75:40




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