Tuesday 21 May 2013

Review: Symphony No. 19, Op. 142, 'The Bright May' and 'The Banners of Peace', Op. 143 - Vladimir Lande and the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra

This disc was released towards the end of 2012, and formed a continuation of Naxos' series on Weinberg's symphonies. The disc features two works from Weinberg's late period, his Symphony no. 19 and the orchestral poem 'The Banners of Peace'.

   The 19th Symphony was written in 1985 and is the last of a trilogy, starting with the 17th (Op. 137), and moving to the 18th (Op. 138), culminating in the 19th. The trilogy is subtitled 'Having crossed the threshold of War' or 'Having Survived the War'. No. 17 is subtitled 'Memory', No. 18 'War––there is no word more cruel' and No. 19 'Bright May'. The May in the title refers to the month the Great Patriotic War ended - but the symphony itself is more of a wary humanistic hymn to the lost, rather than a triumphant victory.

  Nos. 17 and 19 are headed with lines from the poet Anna Akhmatova. No. 17's reads:

My country, you have regained
Your power and freedom!
But in the treasure-house of the people's memory
There will always remain
The incinerated years of war.

No. 19's motto reads:

Victory is at out door
How to welcome this long-awaited guest?
Women will raise their babies
Who have been saved from thousands of deaths
– This will be the best salute.

The motto's of these works communicate the solemn tone of the trilogy. The shorter work paired on this disc, 'The Banners of Peace' bears a dedication to the 27th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, and extends the mournful yet optimistic tone of the symphony that precedes it. Its thematic material is partly based on revolutionary songs (with some shared material from Shostakovich's 11th Symphony).

 The recording on this disc by the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra led by Vladimir Lande is recorded in mostly excellent quality, and the playing throughout is faultless. Richard Whitehouse's liner notes give good background to the works on the disc, and the CD is extremely reasonably priced. The Symphony has previously been released with Vladimir Fedoseyev conducting in a live performance, but the sound on this recording is much more warm, not to mention that the accuracy of performance is much better here. I would certainly recommend buying a copy of Vladimir Lande and the Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra's recording.

Recommended recordings for further interest

–– Neos label, Symphony No. 17, 'Memory', Vladimir Fedoseyev and the Wiener Symphoniker

–– Olympia, Symphonies 14 & 18, Vladimir Fedoseyev and the USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra (This is now rather difficult to get hold of, admittedly).

–– Naxos, Symphony No. 8, 'Polish Flowers', Antoni Wit with Rafał Bartmiński and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir (Naxos' most recent release of Weinberg - well worth hearing.)


P.S. the Fedoseyev recording of Symphony No. 19 is available to listen to on youtube: Link

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