This is the fourth disc in our series dedicated to the orchestral works of Mieczysław Weinberg, performed by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under Thord Svedlund. The cello soloist is Claes Gunnarsson, one of Sweden’s leading cellists, who combines the post as Principal Cello of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra with a brilliant solo career.
After the Second World War, along with many other composers, Weinberg was subjected to a series of campaigns against so-called Formalism in the Soviet arts. As a result he turned his attention to concertante works, a medium less prone to censure than symphonies, sonatas, and quartets. The first movement of the Cello Concerto shares the tense, pensive lyricism found in the opening Nocturne of Shostakovich’s almost exactly contemporaneous First Violin Concerto. This later gives way to the rhythms of a habanera and some impassioned passages of Jewish klezmer, almost as if to guarantee a healthy quota of folk-rooted intonations (a required antidote to charges of Formalism), while at the same time allowing for deeper emotions too.
In the 1970s, Weinberg’s symphonic production went in two distinct but complementary directions. One of these was at the patriotic end of the Socialist Realist spectrum, while the other was much more abstract. Weinberg’s highly austere five-movement Symphony No. 20 clearly falls into the latter category – challenging, perplexing, and unpredictable. In the second scherzo Weinberg quotes from his opera The Portrait, based on a short story by Gogol. In fact, the finale perfectly captures the mood of the opera’s closing scenes, in which the artist protagonist realises that he has betrayed his calling, and sinks into delirium and eventual death.
A previous volume in our Weinberg series (CHSA5089: Symphony No. 3 and Suite No. 4 from The Golden Key) was nominated for a Grammy this year, in the Best Engineered Album category.