Alongside the terrific symphonic cycles being issued by Naxos and Chandos, Weinberg's chamber music discography has been growing apace, thanks primarily to the sterling efforts of Toccata Classics, NEOS and especially CPO. If nothing else, all of these recordings have succeeded in underlining the sheer irrationality of this highly original composer's previous neglect.
Weinberg's superb Piano Quintet arguably takes pride of place in his chamber corpus, a state of affairs reflected in the current availability on CD of six different recordings. The three works on this latest release from CPO do not perhaps quite reach the same heights of imagination, but each is valuable in its own right. Here Weinberg is notably less redolent of Shostakovich – the latter's close friendship tending "unconsciously [to] inspire [my] compositional activity" – and more uniquely himself, so to speak.
The three-movement work Weinberg modestly labelled 'sonatina' is more substantial than this title suggests, although it is fairly light in character, bubbling with gentle nostalgia in a rather un-Polish way. The second movement is not at all "very tragic", as the notes state. The score is sensitively interpreted by Erez Ofer and Elisaveta Blumina.
Blumina returns for the Piano Trio, Ofer now replaced by Kolja Blacher, the pair joined by German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser, who recorded Weinberg's Cello Sonata no.2 for Hänssler back in 2006. The Trio is a deeper, more ambiguous work, and no wonder - to say that it was written at a 'difficult time' for the composer would be crass: his parents and sister had been murdered in a concentration camp, but he did not yet know. The tragic hope of the final movement is palpable, beautifully expressed for posterity by the three soloists.
Finally, Nabil Shehata performs with distinction the twenty-minute Sonata for double bass. An important work for soloists without doubt, it also works well for audiences, its six short movements offering an easy-going array of colourful, melodic evocations. Though basically reflective, the work undeniably shares some of the optimism of the Cello Sonata, written in the wake of the 'Khrushchev Thaw' that had taken place after Stalin's death and which led to Weinberg's release from prison and a looming death sentence.
Sound quality is pretty good, though up close enough to roughen the edges a little in places, especially in the Piano Trio. The accompanying booklet is standard CPO issue – voluminous notes, generally well written and informative, with a non-native translation into English that is reasonable, if not always idiomatic.
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