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Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Piano Trio, op.24 (1945) [30:21]
Violin Sonatina, op.46 (1946) [16:57]
Sonata for solo double bass, op.108 (1971) [20:37]
Kolja Blacher (violin) (Trio)
Erez Ofer (violin) (Sonatina)
Johannes Moser (cello)
Elisaveta Blumina (piano)
Nabil Shehata (double bass)
rec. venue not given, 6-25 January 2012; 24 November 2011 (op.108).
CPO 777 804-2 [68:23]

Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996) has undergone a major renaissance of late by the record companies, after a long period in the wilderness. Naxos and Chandos have symphony cycles in hand, Melodiya have some offerings and even Toccata Classics is in on the act. CPO have released this excellent CD in their chamber music cycle. Surprisingly, it is the first time I have heard any of Weinberg’s music, and this CD will certainly spur me on to investigate further.

The Trio is the major work on this release, and it is without doubt the highlight. Composed in 1945 against the backdrop of World War II, it was scored during one of the extreme low points of the composer’s life; not knowing the fate of his parents and sister they, in fact, perished in a concentration camp. Throughout the work I could detect echoes of Shostakovich; the two became friends. It is a substantial opus, thirty minutes in length. In the first movement there is drama and emotion, heralded in by a declamatory opening. A toccata follows - an aggressively rhythmical movement delivered by the players with great gusto, energy and drive. Then comes a contrasting “Poem”, with underlying melancholy and lyricism. The finale contains a monumental fugue, the composer seemingly being a very skilled contrapuntalist.

The Sonatina Op. 46 for violin and piano was written a year later in 1946. Imbued with beautiful melodies, it conjures up images of idyllic landscapes. Yet tragedy is always lurking in the background.

Fast forward twenty-five years to 1971 and we have the Sonata for Double Bass solo. During the seventies, the composer was preoccupied with solo sonatas, writing them for cello, viola and bassoon. This Double Bass Sonata is cast in six short movements, almost like a suite. It is lyrical and melodious and offers a pleasurable listen. I would imagine that double bass players will embrace this work with open arms, there can’t be that much solo music written for the instrument.

These are very committed performances by instrumentalists with a real feel for the music. Sound quality and instrumental balance throughout is first rate. Booklet notes in German and English are informative as is usually the norm with CPO.

All in all, this is a very desirable release.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous reviews: Steve Arloff & Byzantion

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