Poland reclaims a great symphonic composer

Poland reclaims a great symphonic composer


norman lebrecht

February 03, 2015

The rediscovery of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, the Moscow composer closest to Shostakovich, has been a slow, often frustrating process over the past two decades. It has involved scholars and performers in Sweden, Britain, Germany, Russia – a line of exploration across northern Europe that, for some reason, bypassed Poland.

Weinberg was Polish. Born in Warsaw, he fled to Russia when the Germans invaded in 1939. Most of his family perished in the Nazi Holocaust.




Now, at last, the Warsaw Philharmonic and their artistic director Jacek Kaspzyk have taken up the music in what promises to be an outstanding series on Warner Classics – the first such exposure on a ‘major’ label.

The opening release, out this month, contains the G-minor violin concerto, exquisitely played by Ilya Gringolts, and the breakthrough fourth symphony. Together, they were the first of Weinberg’s orchestral score to receive a public performance, by Kirill Kondrashin in 1961. The solo lines of the symphony express a heart-rending social isolation. To hear them played by soloists in a Warsaw orchestra sounds somehow more authentic than any I have yet experienced. The record arrived yesterday and I have already played it three times.

Click here to hear more.

Warsaw Philharmonic Weinberg Symphony No. 4 & Violin Concerto_0825646224838_cover



  • Milka says:

    It is disconcerting that Kaspszyk has such an inflated ego that his name dominates–one
    would think he was the composer, such arrogance .
    One would suggest to Warner classics that a certain Weinberg wrote that which Kaspszyk
    hopes to ride to fame and glory .Perhaps the name Weinberg should dominate the cover .

    Weinberg will in time come into his own .The Warsaw Philharmonic are a superb
    group of players as Lebrecht notes and serve him well . What we need are the old Stokowski days
    when conductors of his period championed new works as a natural course , most
    to-day are time beaters . How many of our present “conductors ” will take up the music
    of Weinberg remains to be seen ,and fiddle players should give a rest to endless Sibelius and
    take a chance on the Weinberg concerto . Let’s hope this is a start .

    • Michael Guttman says:

      Agree, Milka!!
      It took so long to have Weinberg recognised, and he’s being overshadowed by a Conductor…We have the great belgian Musicologist Franz Lemaire to thank for helping in this revival;he gave the excellent Danel Quartet, based in Belgium, access to the hard to find scores of Weinberg’s quartet music as well as Violin sonatas to Gidon Kremer i believe..Linus Roth in Germany recorded, earlier then this Warner cd, a remarquable Weiberg violin concerto coupled with Britten i believe.Long Live Weinberg.

    • Dave Fox says:

      It is a ‘major’ label, as Norman points out. Putting the artist ahead of the composer is standard for them. In fact, it’s about the only way to tell the ‘majors’ from the ‘minors’ these days.

  • jacques ferland says:

    The author of this article has overlooked the recordings of Gabriel Chmura and the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, for the Chandos label, and of Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, on Naxos. The most extensive Weinberg series, with recordings ranging from the 1960s to the 1990s, is to be found on the old Olympia label. The older recordings involved Russian performers and the more recent ones the Gothenburg Quartet and other Swedish performers. In sum, the rediscovery in question long precedes the Danel Quartet or Kaspszyk.