Rostislav Krimer Conducts Weinberg

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WEINBERG: Chamber Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3 / East-West Chamber Orch.; Rostislav Krimer, cond / Naxos 8.574063

This is the second CD I’ve seen of these Weinberg chamber symphonies, the other being by Anna Duczmal-Mróz and the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra of Polish Radio on Dux. What I find curious is that both releases contain the same two symphonies, Nos. 1 & 3. Apparently No. 2 isn’t as good (I guess).

The first symphony is one of Weinberg’s cheeriest and most formal works, though it still bears his unmistakable style, something like Shostakovich but with more interesting chord progressions and less hysteria in the loud moments.

The East-West Chamber Orchestra, the resident group of Yuri Bashmet’s International Music Festival, is a crack unit that plays with superb precision and clarity. Krimer, who is a pianist as well as a conductor, is the Festival’s artistic director. His conducting style is straightforward and clean, although not as emotional or as well nuanced as Duczmal-Mróz’s performances. By and large, however, the readings here will certainly satisfy most listeners, and in fact the slow movement of the first symphony, in this recording, may pop up on your local classical radio station, although the intense climax in the middle may be a hair too “modern” for their listeners’ “sensitive ears.” (By the way, my cat Fluffy just LOVES our local classical radio. She can’t get enough of the harp, flute and zither recordings they play on it. It really speaks to her heart, mind and spirit.) The “Allegretto” is even quirkier than Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony, and the last movement, also different, reminds one of the Prokofiev work’s last movement. (You know, since Weinberg fled to the Soviet Union in 1939, I wonder if he ever met or got to know Prokofiev in addition to his buddy Shostakovich.)

The third chamber symphony opens with a more typically Weinberg-like melody, slow and moody, though not nearly as angst-filled as those of his full-orchestra symphonies. The second movement, an “Allegro” that is very close to a “Presto,” has unusual modal harmonies but is otherwise quite chipper, as happy as you’re going to get from Weinberg. The third-movement “Adagio” is actually pretty hopeful-sounding melody, played solely by the upper strings to begin with. The basses enter at 1:34, weighing things down a bit, but the ensuing soft theme is also pleasing and calm in mood. It does, however, become weightier and sadder at the end, and the ensuing “Andante” does little to alleviate the mood although, at the 3:45 mark, we hear a melody played in counterpoint that almost sounds like 18th-century music.

If you don’t have the Dux CD, this will certainly fill a gap in your Weinberg discography.

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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