Vainberg: Violin Concerto,
Symphony #4. Moscow PO "Vol. 10"
Olympia OCD 622
Vainberg: Symphonies 7 and 12 "Volume
2" Olympia OCD 472
Vainberg: Symphony #6, Ahronovich, Jerusalem
SO & Chorus Jerusalem SCD 8005
Very early in my exploration
of classical music I discovered an LP
recording of one of Vainberg’s Sinfoniettas
and enjoyed listening to it, so I have
been aware of him as long as I have
many other better known composers.
Vainberg’s music is
sort of like Shostakovich with some
sugar on it, or perhaps one should say
a little less vinegar — the same drama,
melody, and colour but with less depression
and sarcasm. This is remarkable because
Vainberg has more to be depressed and
angry about than Shostakovich. Vainberg’s
entire family in Poland was destroyed
by the Nazis, and Vainberg himself came
much closer to being sent to the gulag
than Shostakovich ever did — saved,
ironically, by Shostakovich’s intervention
on his behalf. Vainberg has a fine sense
of drama and structure. As he is every
bit as capable an orchestrator as Shostakovich,
his music has rich orchestral colour.
Chandos’s usual demonstration quality
sound is put to very good use here and
the artists perform brilliantly and
with great sympathy.
Unfortunately, it is
precisely this relative lack of angst
that sets Vainberg’s music on a slightly
lower pedestal than Shostakovich. At
his best — the Violin Concerto Op.
67 or the Fourth Symphony —
he is very, very good. Those works have
hummable melodies, traditional structure,
and exciting drama and can be recommended
The Fifth Symphony
is a stark, urgent, passionate work,
with only fragmentary themes here and
there. Orchestration and dramatic structure
are very reminiscent of Shostakovich.
Both the Fourth and Sixth
Symphonies are more melodic, or
at least more recognisably motivic,
certainly more fun. The Sinfonia,
described in the notes as "Jewish
music," is a tuneful work with
bright rhythms and cheerful colour.
It deserves to be much more popular
than it is. So, unless you are a Vainberg
completist (come on, I’m sure I’m not
the only one out there) you might be
more likely to buy this disk for the
Serenade. If the future volumes
in this Chandos "Symphonies"
series, which evidently will also include
all the Serenades, are as well
performed and recorded as this one,
Vainberg completists will rejoice in
each new volume. Many of the volumes
in the Olympia series, which evidently
was to include all works, are still
in print, mostly via Amazon.uk.
On this disk the publisher
has used the polyglot form "Mieczyslaw
Weinberg" and "Weinberg"
is on the disk spine. On Olympia OCD472
the name is "Moishei Vainberg"
but other of the Olympia series have
it as "Miechyslav Vainberg."
and one sometimes sees "Mois(s)ei."
One could get the idea we’re talking
about a whole crowd of people.
The text author is
joking about the various spellings of
the composer's name, so a brief statement
of facts seems appropriate.
As for the first name, "Moisei"
was forced on the composer when he arrived
in the USSR in 1939. It was only in
the 1980s that he managed to regain
his real first name "Mieczysław"
(with a "Polish slash" on
the "l"). When Olympia heard
of this, they changed the name.
The correct spelling of the family
name is "Weinberg": the composer
grew up under this name and spelling
in Poland. "Vainberg" and
all other variants are (in part faulty)
transliterations from the Russian form
of the name, which in turn is a transliteration
from the original.
So "Mieczysław Weinberg"
is the ONLY correct way of writing his
name with Latin letters.