VAINBERG: Symphony No. 5. Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra.

VAINBERG: Symphony No. 5. Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. Kirill Kondrashin and Algis Zhiuraitis conducting the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra; Timofei Dokshitser, trumpet . RUSSIAN DISC–RD CD 11 006 [AAD]; 65:52

Moissi Vainberg (b. 1919) was subjected to the double indignity of being an avowedly Jewish composer during the years of the Soviet regime. Nonetheless, he did manage to compose a substantial amount of music, including 19 symphonies, and win the respect of his colleagues (grudgingly, in many cases, I gather).  Evidently, Shostakovich was a loyal ally. How he has fared in recent years I do not know, but I believe that he is still active. This reissue brings to compact disc two Melodiya recordings from the 1960s.

Vainberg’s Fifth Symphony (1962) is a powerful, 44-minute work in a familiar Soviet style that consistently calls Shostakovich — especially his Fourth Symphony — to mind, with an expressive range characterized by vehemence, brutality, and grotesquerie. However, Vainberg’s language is somewhat harsher and more angular than that of his older colleague. The symphony is a solid, imposing work, though I found it to lose focus during the last movement. Kondrashin’s performance sounds fervent and committed, with a rugged lack of refinement that may be viewed as stylistically appropriate.

Vainberg’s 1967 Trumpet Concerto is quite an ambitious work, whose inventiveness extends beyond the conventions of the “showpiece” genre. It is consistently ironic in tone, in the Soviet manner, with wildly fantastic touches, giving fabled virtuoso Timofei Dokshitser ample opportunity to display the qualities that have made him a legend among trumpet players.  The sound quality retains a tinniness characteristic of Melodiya recordings of its vintage.