Mieczyslaw Weinberg’ music can be a difficult listen. He was fond of extreme registers and extreme harmonies — not the best combination for a Soviet-Era composer. For someone interested in exploring Weinberg’s work (and you really should), this a great disc to start with.

The works on this album are all written in a more conservative (and Party-friendly) style. Weinberg was a close friend of Shostakovich, and that affinity can be heard in Weinberg’s music.

Like Shostakovich, Weinberg doesn’t fully sublimate his feelings. These chamber symphony works are basically tonal, but there’s an undercurrent of subversiveness running through them.

The Chamber Symphony No. 1 was an arrangement of Weinberg’s 1940 String Quartet No. 2. It reminded me of Shostakovich’s Op. 110a Chamber Symphony (also arranged from a string quartet). I think Weinberg sublimates his anger better than Shostakovich, without completely erasing it.

Stylistically, I think the Concerto for Flute and Strings No. 1 is closer to Prokofiev than Shostakovich. There’s a lightness to the work, with angular melodies that occasionally veer off in unexpected directions.

Weinberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 3 seems more modest in scope than the first one. Although about the same length, Weinberg’s music shows more constraint than with the first. There’s less use of extreme registers and softer dissonances throughout.

The Amadeus Chamber Orchestra of the Polish Radio delivers fine, nuanced performances. In the hands of Anna Duczmal-Mroz, the ensemble brings out the subtext of discontent in these neo-classical works. Accessible music with plenty of emotional depth — that’s why I’ll be using this recording as an introduction to Weinberg’s work.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Chamber Music
Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 145; Concerto for Flute and Strings, No. 1, Op. 75; Chamber Symphony No. 3, Op. 151
Amadeus Chamber Orchestra of Polish Radio; Lukasz Dlugosz, flute;
Anna Duczmal-Mróz, conductor
DUX 1525