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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2013
This is undoubtedly a significant release of a very moving work. The only thing that disappointed, once again, was to find the libretto omitted from the informative notes. Yes, you can download the texts, but they are only available in the original Polish! For a much heralded "world premiere recording", this really is inexcusable! Please can someone put some translations on the Naxos site as soon as possible, so that we can enjoy listening even more?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2013
Would really love to hear this work live. Fantastic choral writing. Both progressive and accessible. Is little bit guilty of having a few movement too long. Marvellous performance by Rafal Bartminski again. Having never heard Weinberg before, I shall be looking into his other works.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2013
Mieczyslaw Weinberg was born in Poland but lived in Russia for the last 43 of his 76 years, settling there after the success of his First Symphony, which favourably impressed Shostakovich. He left us a good output - 26 symphonies, 17 string quartets, 7 operas and plenty else, and the Eighth Symphony (the only wholly choral one) was written in 1964, so sits in the middle of his Russian years (all this trivia copied from the sleeve notes of this CD which are written well if, like me, you haven't heard of Weinberg before). While I'm not an expert on either, as a combination of Polish and Russian styles I think his leans towards the latter - other than the Polish text, the musical language follows a sort of Shostakovich/Prokofiev mould, not wholly atonal but not traditional diatonic harmony, with lots of odd twists and turns, and in mood it's mainly brooding, with a few more violent sections. The happiest we get is some not-wholeheartedly perky choral writing in the second movement; given the connection to Shostakovich and Weinberg's historical position, the automatic question to ask is whether this perkiness is ironic. This is really not helped by the most disappointing element of the CD - the lack of transcript and translation (for copyright reasons, perhaps?). The sleeve notes are helpful by giving one person's movement-by-movement interpretation of the work, but it would be great to be able to decide for oneself exactly how Weinberg is dealing with the text.

I didn't sense any sort of trajectory over the whole work (like you get in Beethoven or Mahler) - no minor to major climax or big triumphant tune, for example - so a lot of the time the interest is generated by the different orchestral and choral textures, and of course the words. In fact, and given the instrumentation, I thought it felt a bit more like a secular cantata than a symphony.

Most of the first five movements (of ten) contain a lot of foreboding passages - choir chanting in unison without much pitch variety along with unpredictable pensive tolling string chords. The most active music starts in the sixth movement: 'a warning to Polish infants of the inequities that they are to encounter' - fun stuff. This opens with some dance-like music which is almost fairground-esque - surely ironic in a Danse Macabre way. The seventh movement contains some busy solos (including what sounds like some difficult percussion writing, crisply executed). The very last few minutes of the work are 'tenuously optimistic', but not enough to give a satisfyingly happy ending to the previous fifty-six.

The soloists (a tenor who gets the lion's share, a soprano and an alto) are good, but never really get the chance to show us all their stuff given the general introversion and lack of lyrical writing. I don't know any Polish, and again the lack of transcript disappoints, so I can't really comment on their pronunciation or interpretation of the text.

The work sets a fairly bleak tone, and keeps you at a bit of a distance - both unsurprisingly, given the subject matter and geographical and historical position. The recording is fine and this CD makes an addition to the symphonic repertoire in general and the twentieth-century Russian story in particular. I shall try some of Weinberg's other music - the Sixth Symphony (also on Naxos) is a Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, which sounds intriguing - but I struggled a bit to connect with this piece.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2014
Heard this on Radio 3 and was determined to have a copy. Not something I will listen to a lot. A little disappointing on second hearing.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 29 June 2013
very wonderful music. i think this is, in fact, extremely wonderful music, some of the most wonderful music that i have ever heard or wondered about.
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