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Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Sonata No.1 for violin solo Op.82 (1964) [25:38]
Sonata No.2 for violin solo, Op.95 (1967) [16:57]
Sonata No.3 for violin solo, Op.126 (1978) [27:08]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Three Fantastic Dances (1922, transcr. for violin by Harry Glickman) [4:27]
Linus Roth (violin)
José Gallardo (piano: Shostakovich)
rec. April-May 2015, Jesus-Christus Kirche, Berlin (Weinberg) and Motormusic Studios, Mechelen, Belgium (Shostakovich)

Linus Roth has already recorded Weinberg’s works for violin and piano, as well as the Violin Concerto, so he is as well placed as any fiddler to tackle the taxing Solo Violin Sonatas. These he intersperses with the three Fantastic Dances of Weinberg’s friend Shostakovich where he’s joined by pianist José Gallardo.
The First Solo Sonata had to wait for Yuri Kalnits on Toccata (TOCC0007) for a recording (see review). Roth’s recording is admirable in many ways. He controls the angular rhetoric very well and brings out the uncomfortably piercing quality of the second movement Adagio. Torrid Bartók-derived elements are present just as much as those that show some Shostakovich influence, but Weinberg’s originality lies in passages such as the layering of pizzicati, legato and staccati in a three-way conversation in the Allegretto. The Lento is more precise but rather less communicative than Kalnits, and taken at a slower tempo too.

The multi-movement Second Sonata, Op.85 enjoys moments of the witty badinage of popular song. Each of the seven movements is tightly compressed and the result is music that is far less abrasively resinous than Weinberg’s first example of the solo violin genre. True, the central Andantino has a bleak power with its brusque pizzicati after the melancholy bowed passage, but there are Hebraic cadences in the fifth movement that ensure a folkloric vitality. The last Solo Sonata is the third, Op.126 dating from 1978. This is a work that has long been associated with that most abrasive and acidic of violinists, Gidon Kremer, whose tonal armoury is perfectly suited to serve Weinberg’s very particular sound world. His ECM recording (4810669) is a must-have for those interested in braving the thickets of this 27-minute work. Exceptionally complexly structured – it’s single-tracked here – it demands unilateral mental and digital commitment from its exponent. Roth brings the necessary level of intensity to bear, marshalling its distinct dialogues, monologues and metrically-different paragraphs. He is excellent at promoting the different necessary voicings, and is splendid in the scherzo-like section beginning at 16:20. He lacks – as do almost all exponents – Kremer’s sheer virtuosic bravura in the work, but otherwise this is a thoroughly recommendable version.

The athletic Three Fantastic Dances, in the arrangement by Harry Glickman, were not recorded in Berlin but in the more spaciously warm acoustic of Motormusic Studios, Mechelen, Belgium. They receive suitably lively responses from Roth and Gallardo.

To have the three Solo Sonatas concentrated here is a fine piece of programming, as Toccata is spreading the solo sonatas amongst those for Violin and Piano. Roth is an impressive interpreter of Weinberg’s music, but of the three solo works, I’d prefer Kilnits in No.1 and, clearly, Kremer in No.3 – although Roth’s tight focus is a collector’s wish and the SACD sound impressive.

Jonathan Woolf


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