Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (Moishei VAINBERG) (1919-1996)

Complete Violin Sonatas - Volume 1

Violin Sonata No.1 Op.12 (1943) [21:59]
Sonata No.1 for violin solo Op.82 (1964) [24:41]
Violin Sonata No. 4 Op.39 (1947) [13:44]
Sonatina for violin and piano Op.46 (1949) [14:45]
Yuri Kalnits (violin)
Michael Csányi-Wills (piano)
rec. August 2008, Champs Hill, Coldwaltham (Sonatas No.1 and No. 4) and Moviefonics Studios, West London (Solo Sonata and Sonatina)
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 CPO 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 guns admirably.
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.
Jonathan Woolf

An extremely good start to the projected series.