WEINBERG; Symphony No. 6 / Konzertchor Rutheneum; Philharmonisches Orchester Altenberg Gera; Laurent Wagner, cond / 21 Easy Pieces / Elisaveta Blumina, pno / Klanglogo KL1532-1
The Klanglogo label, a year late, is getting in on the Weinberg centennial with this new recording of the composer’s Sixth Symphony and 21 Easy Pieces. Although these works have been recorded before, it’s always good to have alternate versions available, and it’s also nice to see a German orchestra and conductor get in on the act.
The principal competition for this version of the symphony is Vladimir Lande’s recording on Naxos, a very fine performance. This one has its own appeal, however, particularly in the very spacious sound and the brightness of both the boys’ choir and the orchestra. By and large, Laurent Wagner takes a somewhat more spacious reading than Lande, but both are effective. The almost 3D sound here gives the performance an unusual quality, almost as if the performing forces were “bottomless.” Part of this is due to the composer’s emphasis on very high winds and strings, but part of it is also due to the way the recording was engineered. For those unfamiliar with Weinberg’s music (although I would think, at this point, that most classical listeners are unless they spend their time listening to classical radio stations, which generally avoid him), his symphonic music is by no means conventional. It alternates sad, almost painful writing with upbeat, almost manic passages, as in the “Allegretto” of this symphony, although even this is interrupted at the midway point by a mocking clarinet. Weinberg laid bare the world of his interior feelings, which were so imbued with the pain, suffering and loss that came from the second World War that these feelings became his music. Indeed, if anything, I found Wagner’s performance of this symphony even more emotionally powerful than Lande’s, and that’s saying quite a lot.
In the 21 Easy Pieces we hear the great pianist Elisaveta Blumina. Her chief competitor here is Allison Brewster Franzetti on the Grand Piano label, who is also a fine pianist. Were these deeper music, I would say that Blumina scores over Franzetti due to her more emotional approach although these pieces are only “easy” technically, not in terms of emotional content. It is certainly a fine performance of the entire series. No. 3, “The Skipping Rope,” sounds oddly like a bit of music from a silent film accompaniment. One of the more affecting pieces is No. 5, which is ironically entitled “Playmates” as there is nothing really playful about it.
Overall, then, a very fine album for Weinberg aficionados.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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