This latest Naxos release is the third in less than a year dedicated
to the symphonies of Mieczysław Weinberg. The first two
excellent recordings were made by Vladimir Lande with the St
Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra - see review
of volume 1; volume 2 (8.572752) comprises Symphony No. 19 and
Banners of Peace. By contrast, the Weinberg symphony
edition from Chandos
was begun a full decade ago, and is now seven entries strong.
The first three were recorded by another Polish ensemble, the
National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra Katowice under Gabriel
Chmura, and the latest four by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
under Thord Svedlund.
Whether Chandos or Naxos, all discs to date have been very well
received, both in terms of performances and with regard to Weinberg's
thrillingly original music. Naxos have the price advantage -
typically 50% cheaper - but many of the Chandos discs are in
Super Audio quality. In fact, Naxos founder Klaus Heymann has
said that the two labels are effectively sharing the workload
initially, heading towards a bipartisan recording of Weinberg's
complete symphonies - of which there are, incidentally, 21 complete,
plus one unfinished fragment (no.22), four
chamber symphonies and two sinfoniettas.
For a long time it was a critical shibboleth that Weinberg's
symphonic music was a pale imitation of Shostakovich's, especially
as Weinberg was always the more conservative. He is perhaps
more reminiscent of the older Prokofiev in fact, and as a consequence
his Symphonies tend to be more lyrical, less strident, more
immediately audience-friendly than those by Shostakovich. In
the Eighth Weinberg often brings Orff and Stravinsky to mind,
both in terms of orchestral colouring and the way voices are
For those who have missed previous discs, this one is not, on
balance, the ideal place to start a discovery of the symphonies
- in some respects, the Eighth is not even a symphony, but more
of a cantata. The ten movements (in fact, the booklet notes
mention twelve, but then proceed to describe only the ten that
are separately tracked) are all songs, with very few passages
of purely orchestral music - the first of any note comes towards
the end of section VI. Indeed, the instrumental scoring, though
always evocative, is often neo-classically restrained and subtle,
allowing the singers to be clearly heard at all times.
Though not necessarily convincing as a symphony, Polish Flowers
is an expressive, melodic work of considerable elegance and
power, its climax tantalisingly hopeful. The Polish Flowers
subtitle comes from a set of poems by leading Polish writer
Julian Tuwim (1894-1953), from whom Weinberg borrows the texts.
In his cycle Tuwim considers, appropriately, Poland's "troubled
past and ominous future".
Incidentally, Naxos's foreign rendition of the title, 'Tveti
Pol'shi' is an oddity. Tuwim's original Polish is 'Kwiaty Polskie',
which is 'Polish Flowers' in Polish. The Naxos version is in
fact a poorly transliterated rendition of the Russian for 'flowers
of Poland', the first part of which should be 'tsveti' or, better
still, 'tsvieti'. The texts can be downloaded from the Naxos
website. Strangely, there is no translation provided from the
Polish into English or indeed any other language, so they are
likely to be of limited usefulness to general audiences. Tuwim's
texts are mysteriously marked as Naxos copyright.
Regardless, the three vocal soloists and the choir are very
impressive. Naxos old hand Antoni Wit keeps everyone and everything
together masterfully. Sound quality is worthy of the performances.
Notes by series annotator Richard Whitehouse give all the necessary
details in clear, informative language. In almost every regard,
in fact, this is a prize-winning premiere recording. One minor
complaint is the sub-hour running time: a purely instrumental
work for orchestra, of which Weinberg wrote many, would have
added to the listener's appreciation.
Some of Weinberg's chamber music has also recently become available
on Naxos - three volumes of cello sonatas (8.570333, 8.572280,
Furthermore, four volumes of what is being billed as Weinberg's
complete piano music have now been issued on HNH/Naxos's Grand
Piano label, performed by Allison Brewster Franzetti (GP 603,
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