The more we hear of the Polish-born Jewish Russian composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919–1996), the more varied his music seems. This is the premiere recording of his Symphony No 13 (1976), and the work could not be more unlike the folk-based No 3 or the vigorous, propulsive Fourth Symphony of earlier in his career.

The 13th is another kettle of angst entirely. Laid out in one continuous movement, it develops long thematic lines that gradually reach and recede from climactic moments. The long, unfolding strands of the work may feel directionless but perhaps that is the point: this is a symphony of melancholic depression with very little respite, and its journey is circuitous. Nevertheless, we find colour along the way: the strings dominate, but a gentle woodwind passage and a solo horn theme feature in the lengthy, intimate coda. Weinberg’s melancholy has a deeply Jewish feel, expressed in the many violin solos that crop up. It is a piece to immerse yourself in.

The Serenade No 4 is a light work in four movements. This is easier listening and, one suspects, more palatable to the Soviet authorities. It premiered in 1952 under Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Here, Weinberg’s lightly scored and delightfully melodic music displays a Tchaikovskian sweetness. It is the perfect dessert to follow the symphony. The orchestra and conductor (neither of whom I’ve heard before) are excellent.


Composer: Weinberg
Composition: Symphony No 13, Serenade
Performer: Siberian State Symphony/Vladimir Lande
Catalogue Number: Naxos 8573879

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine