I’ve reviewed two other discs of Weinberg’s Violin Sonatas,
though there are no indications yet as to whether they will
be, as Toccata’s promises to be, wholly complete. One is on
777 456-2, the other on Acte
Préalable AP0209, and both include the important Fourth
Sonata, as does this Toccata disc. But Toccata has mixed and
matched wisely, including the first ever recordings of the First
Sonata and the 1964 Sonata No.1 for violin solo, Op.82. This
adventurous spirit ensures the disc’s value, a quality reinforced
by the dedicated performances.
The 1943 First Sonata is a taut but lyrical work. Indeed its
melodic breadth is a perhaps unexpected one given the date of
its composition and Weinberg’s own fraught biographical circumstances.
True, there is a bit of academic working out, but the predominant
mood is one of beautiful warmth, exemplified best in the central
slow movement. Here violinist Yuri Kalnits responds with effusive
vibrato usage and both he and Michael Csányi-Wills securely
locate the Bachian element that Weinberg occasionally infuses
into the work. The finale is urgent, ebullient and winning.
The Fourth Sonata, written in 1947 but not premiered until1968,
is a very different sort of work and this is a very different
performance from any I have heard of it. It’s extremely fast.
Whereas the Kirpal brothers on CPO and the Acte Préalable team
of Barbara Trojanowska and Elzbieta Tyszecka took about 20 minutes
or so, the Toccata performance rips through the sonata in just
under a remarkable fourteen. This adds considerably to the insistent
sense of flow of the music, though arguably the other two teams
explore its post-Szymanowskian spookiness – Weinberg takes the
violin up very high and ethereally – with greater intensity.
Soviet diktat required increased simplicity, so in 1949 Weinberg
wrote the Sonatina, Op.46, a more clement and unassuming piece,
with a spare slow movement, except where the tempo primo
returns and we sense the music take a darkening direction. In
1964 Weinberg turned to the solo violin sonata. The angularity
of the writing in this five-movement work attests to various
influences, not least the obvious one of Shostakovich (always
peddled out when discussing Weinberg, perhaps inevitably given
the connection between them) but also Bartók. Challenging and
even torrid, it is remarkable that this work has never been
recorded, so all credit to the Toccata team. The very best writing
comes in the ingenious Allegretto where Weinberg layers
pizzicati, legato and staccati in a most impressive three-way
conversation. Viewpoints shift accordingly, and its urgency
is reinforced by the militant but controlled Presto
finale. Other interpretative positions are possible, as the
Fourth Sonata dramatically shows, but the duo sticks to its
The two recording venues are apt, though the piano is (deliberately,
I think) slightly back in the mix. This is an extremely good
start to the projected series.