Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Weinberg Violin Sonatas

I always delighted to discover "new" composers or pieces. There has been a recent renewed interest and revival in a number of lessor known composers, which I'm really pleased about. The ones that I am aware of and am following with much interest are: Ferdinand Ries, Henk Badings, Hans Gál and Mieczysław Weinberg. I'm sure there are a few others that I am not aware of. Let me know if any come to mind.
Mieczysław Weinberg
One of my FaceBook page followers recently made me aware of a recording of the violin and piano works by Mieczysław Weinberg on the Challenge Records label. I was already aware of Russian/Polish composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996), having discovered his Cello Concerto in a recording played by Mstislav Rostropovich, a number of years ago. I have subsequently not really explored his music that much...until now.

Russian violinist, Gidon Kremer had the following to say about Weinberg:
"I am enormously pleased that the world has finally discovered a very important composer in M. Weinberg. His great colleague, friend and supporter Dmitri Shostakovich would have been enormously pleased as well. I sincerely hope that Weinberg’s musical legacy will attract many more interpreters. For me personally, the treasure trove of his compositions (unrecognised by many) is a source of constant excitement and inspiration.”

The violin and piano works of Weinberg have certainly found inspired interpreters in German violinist Linus Roth and Argentinean pianist José Gallardo. According to the press release: "Violinist Linus Roth and pianist José Gallardo are the first to interpret Weinberg's sonatas and works for violin and piano in a complete anthology!" This recording features world premiere recordings of Sonatas 2 and 6; and the only available recording of the Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes.

This collection of pieces spans over almost 50 years, starting with one of Weinberg's first works, Three pieces for violin and piano written in 1934, while still a student at the Warsaw Conservatory; ending with his sixth and last violin and piano sonata, written in 1982.

The pieces featured in this 3 CD collection, in chronological order, are:
-Three pieces for violin and piano (1934)
-Op.12: Sonata No. 1 (1943)
-Op.15: Sonata No. 2 (1944)
-Op.37: Sonata No. 3 (1947)
-Op.39: Sonata No. 4 (1947)
-Op.46: Sonatina in D major (1949)
-Op.47: Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes (1949)
-Op.53: Sonata No. 5 (1953)
-Op.136b Sonata No.6 (1982)

Weinberg treats the violin and piano as equals allowing each instrument to contribute to the rich musical landscape that he creates. Weinberg demonstrates keen awareness for the capabilities of the violin. He is daring and inventive in his use of violin techniques/effects not typically found in violin sonatas: double stops, triple stops, harmonics and pizzicato, etc. The full range of the violin is exploited, from the sonorous lower registers to the thrilling upper registers. In the later works the influence of Shostakovich and Bartok is unmistakeable.

Among the many highlights in this collection, the Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes (track 8) stands out for me. This single movement piece, which is strangely reminiscent of Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances, lasts just over 10 minutes cleverly blending together a selection of Moldavian themes. The are ample opportunities for the players to show off their abilities. The sul ponticello (playing close to the bridge) at 5'27" is remarkable and the piano playing at 7'00" is exquisite. The pieces ends thrillingly in a fury of virtuosic violin gymnastics. Give it a listen and judge for yourself.

The recorded sound is excellent with a sufficiently warm, resonant acoustic. The violin and piano is perfectly balanced allowing the sounds of the instruments to be fully appreciated. Linus Roth plays on the "Dancla" Stradivarius violin made in 1703. The tone from the violin is rich, full and sonorous. The playing is energetic and committed with clean execution and crisp articulation, allowing the music to be audible and transparent throughout. See what the artists have to say in the video below:

The violin and piano works by Weinberg are generally more conservative in their musical language than the violin sonatas by fellow countrymen Shostakovich and Prokofiev, making them more accessible and easier to get to know. This set is a significant and successful contribution to the recorded violin repertoire. The intelligent interpretations and general accessibility of these works, is sure to win many new fans and admirers.

Links to the recordings:


 USA Store

 UK Store

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