ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Weinberg - Violin Sonatas

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MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG - Violin Sonatas Vol. 1 - Yuri Kalnits (Violin) - Michael Csányi-Wills (Piano) - 5060113440075 - Released: March 2011 - Toccata Classics TOCC0007

Over the last 25 years or so, the music of composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996), has slowly and tentatively grown in reputation and popularity, and has now taken its well-deserved position amongst the big guns of 20th century music. The now defunct Olympia record label played a major part in establishing this composer's importance by releasing many recordings of his Symphonies and chamber works using the Vainberg spelling of his name. More recently, the NEOS label has released an excellent recording of his Viola Sonatas, some actual world premičres, and of course, the Chandos label has been hard at work over the past few years with the release of definitive recordings of many of his Symphonies and Concertos. Some of these recordings have been strongly recommended on this website, and for good reasons. Because of their friendship and constant support, this composer's music bears a strong stylistic similitude to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich, and furthermore establishes clear lines of communication and rapport between it, and the listener.

Take for example the Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, Op. 12 from 1943, given here its world premičre recording. Its harmonic language and conflicting subjects bear Shostakovich's influence, but the melodic invention and rhythmic momentum are pure Weinberg. The interplay between the violin and piano is constantly in motion and creatively shifting the leadership role from one instrument to the other. Violinist Yuri Kalnits and pianist Michael Csányi-Wills immediately establish their deep understanding and perception of this music's substance and character, and deliver an interpretation that pulls us deeply into the music's emotional landscape. And that same level of musicianship comes across even more strongly in the strangely dark and convulsive Sonata No. 4 for Violin and Piano, Op. 39 from 1947. Its many varied moods, from solemn sadness to hyper nervous energy, all come forward very well under the hands and minds of these two fine musicians. Also on this recording are the Sonatina for Violin and Piano, Op. 46, a work of deep lyrical beauty, and the Sonata No. 1 for Violin Solo, Op. 82 from 1964, also witnessing its first recording on this CD.

This new recording is a much welcome release from Toccata Classics, a label who likes to unearth obscure or neglected works. This recording once again clearly demonstrates that music of this calibre certainly didn't deserve to be discarded. Hopefully this label has planned on future releases of other chamber works by Weinberg, which would further help in distancing this composer's name from obscurity. If you enjoy 20th century Russian music, chamber music, Shostakovich, or hearing first recordings of neglected repertoire, than this CD has all of the above and more. Highly recommended!

Jean-Yves Duperron - July 2011