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CD: AmazonUK

László WEINER (1916-1944)
Chamber Music With Viola
Duo for Violin and Viola (1939) [13:50]
Sonata for Viola and Piano (1939?) [16:25]
String Trio - Serenade (1938) [14:12]
Concerto for Piano, Flute, Viola and String Orchestra (1941?) [23:32]
Dirk Hegemann (viola); Monika Hölszky-Weidemann (violin); Lars Jönsson (piano); Erik Borgir (cello); Tatjana Ruhland (flute)
Members of Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra/Julian Kuerti
rec. Chamber Music Studio of Südwestrundfunk Stuttgart, 8 July 2007 (Duo and Sonata); Stuttgart Theaterhaus Pragsattel, 21 October 2007 (Serenade); SWR Funkstudio Stuttgart 1 May 2007 (Concerto)
HUNGAROTON HCD 32607 [68:28]
Experience Classicsonline

László Weiner belongs to that tragic group of artists whose lives and creative careers were cut short by the actions of the Nazi regime before and during World War II. He was a pupil of Kodály for some six years from 1934 and indeed his teacher sent a handwritten letter - poignantly reproduced in the liner-notes - trying in vain to save Weiner from the labour camps at Lukov where he ultimately met his death in 1943 aged just 28. These same notes list his entire oeuvre as an overture, three songs, a composition and the four works which make up this CD. They seem to have been composed between 1938 and 1941 and show Weiner to have been a careful and fastidious composer exploring a variety of musical styles.

By all accounts he was one of Kodály’s favourite pupils and Ilona Kovács in the notes characterises him as “… one of the most promising talents of 20th Century Hungarian music”. On the evidence of this disc I would have to say that this is a promising rather than fulfilled talent. There is craft in abundance on display here; the writing for all of the instruments is idiomatic and sensibly executed. This is seriously-conceived but not overly knotty or unapproachable music. Each of the pieces are clearly influenced by earlier works by other composers whether it is in their sound, form or structure. The music is strangely chameleon-like, even within the movements of the same piece. So in the Sonata for Viola and Piano for example the Fantasia first movement has modal impressionistic passages contrasting with Kodályesque folkish passages in the finale. To those two recurring styles I would add a neo-baroque approach - most clearly displayed in the Concerto that concludes the disc - and a more abstract contrapuntal style something akin to Hindemith or Dohnanyi. So well are these various idioms assimilated that one is left wondering where the “real” Weiner is. The notes allude to Bártok in reference to the Duo for Violin and Viola but I cannot hear that resemblance at all. Given that he was still Kodály’s pupil at the time of its composition it is not wholly surprising that it is his teacher’s influence that is writ largest.

During his life it was the Sonata for Viola and Piano that brought Weiner greatest success. I would have to echo that opinion. It seems to me to be the best proportioned and most individual work here. As mentioned there are some fairly undigested musical influences here but I enjoyed the thematic material and what he does with it most. Personally I found the concerto to be the least successful even though it is the piece that shows the least connection with his musical inheritance. This is a neo-baroque in the style of Vaughan Williams’ Concerto Academico or more closely the Respighi Concerto all'antica or Concerto a cinque. Again, plenty of well worked out passage work but written more with the head than the heart, I felt. 
I cannot imagine Weiner having better advocates than the performers on this disc - clearly the brainchild of violist Dirk Hegemann. All of the players would seem to be members of or involved with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. Such is the quality of the music-making here that I would be interested to see that Orchestra playing live As one their playing is committed, convincing and technically adept. Hegemann in particular makes a beautiful sound on his 1580 Casparo da Sálo viola. Being very pernickety, just a couple of times I thought pianist Lars Jönsson sounded less than comfortable with some of the concerto’s passage-work.

Hungaroton have captured all the music in detailed and vibrant sound with the various instrumental combinations well-balanced and naturally caught.

In all honesty I do not think great claims can be made on behalf of Weiner on the evidence of this disc and if I could only buy one “undiscovered” composer’s music this year it would not be this. But for those interested in rare central European chamber music or that by another “Entartete Musik” composer this will provide a gratifying evening’s listening.

Well performed and recorded music by a composer still finding his own musical path.

Nick Barnard



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