And once again, I was almost knocked out by an unknown work by Mieczyslaw Weinberg. Not so much by his seventeenth symphony, which I had not heard before: it is certainly beautiful but it not really surprising. But his Suite for Orchestra, from 1950, really is!
This work originated in the difficult fifties; difficult for Weinberg (and other Soviet composers), because in those years you could not so sure of what you were, or were not, allowed to put into your music, as anything at all might be turned against you.
Already in the first few seconds of the first movement, ‘Romance’, I was captivated by the unprecedented beauty of the melancholic sound of the trumpet, which in the second movement, ‘Humoresque’, makes way for a cheerful lightness. It is just like a bouncy dance, with a quotation or two from Mahler’s fourth symphony. Part three, ‘Waltz’, resembles the well-known waltz from the second Jazz Suite by Shostakovich.
The nineteen-minute Suite for Orchestra is nothing less than a revelation and the chances of it becoming a ‘hit’ are great. I am therefore very surprised that the work has remained hidden for so long: the recording by the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra has its world premiere here.
Symphony No. 17, nicknamed Memory, together with No. 18 (War, there is no world more cruel) and No. 19 (Bright May) forms a unity, a trilogy with the nickname ‘On the Treshhold of War’. Like the other two symphonies previously recorded by Naxos, this one too has ‘The Great Patriotic War’, or the Second World War, as its theme.
Whereas the eighteenth was based on a poem by Aleksandr Tvardovsky, number seventeen is based on a poem by Anna Achmatova:
‘Your power and freedom
But in the treasure-house of the people’s memory
There will always remain
The incinerated years of war’.
Like the works themselves, the performance by the Krasnoyarsk orchestra is miraculous. Conductor Vladimir Lande has already shown in the earlier recording how much affinity he has with Weinberg’s music, but here he surpasses himself.
Suite for Orchestra (1950),Symphony No.17 ‘Memory’, Op.137
Siberian State Symphony Orchestra (Krasnoyarsk) conducted by Vladimir Lande