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Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Concertino for Violin and Piano, Op. 42 (1948) [18:15]
Sonatina for Violin and Piano, Op. 46 (1949) [14:58]
Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, Op. 47/3  (1949/52) [10:13]
Ewelina Nowicka (violin)
Milena Antoniewicz (piano)
rec. 2012-13, Jerzy Rybiński concert hall of the Pedagogical-Artistic Faculty of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Kalisz, Poland
RECART 0006 [43:25]

The Polish violinist Ewelina Nowicka is no stranger to the music of her fellow compatriot Mieczysław Weinberg. She became acquainted with his compositions whilst researching Dmitri Shostakovich, and was immediately won over to this, at the time, little-known composer. Since then, Weinberg has become a force to be reckoned with, and record companies have awakened to the fact that this Polish-Jewish composer ranks amongst the greatest of the twentieth century. There has been a tidal wave of recordings of late from such labels as Chandos, Naxos and CPO, not to mention the now defunct label Olympia. In 2015 I reviewed a CPO disc containing two of the works featured here, the Concertino, Op. 42 and the Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, Op. 47/3. Again the violinist was Ewelina Nowicka, who had arranged the Rhapsody for violin and orchestra, so it’s interesting to have the opportunity to hear it in two guises.

The Concertino exists in two versions, where the violin is pitched against either the piano or an orchestra. The original manuscript is lost.  It was composed in 1948, a time when Andrei Zhdanov's ‘anti-formalist’ campaign was in full swing. This meant that music had to be composed in a style accessible to the people. The work is cast in three movements, and throughout an attractive, beguiling lyricism pervades. In the opening movement the violin spins its heart-warming melody against a fairly simple piano accompaniment. This is followed by a cadenza, where the violinist is put through her paces; she steps up to the mark admirably. There is a hint of wistfulness in the slow movement. The Rondo finale is more generous to the pianist, offering more involvement. Although beginning fairly unruffled, Weinberg ups the rhetoric as the movement progresses, with scintillating double-stops adding some sparkle to the flourish at the end.

A year later, the composer penned his Sonatina, Op. 46, dedicating it to the Russian composer Boris Tchaikovsky. It was premiered in 1955 by Leonid Kogan, partnered by Andrei Mitnik in Moscow. The opening movement has a naive charm. There follows a Lento with a bittersweet quality, which becomes more animated in the middle, only to return to a more sombre mood. This is all assuaged in the folk-inflected finale, delivered with panache and verve.

David Oistrakh, no less, did much to champion the Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, providing fingerings. Its Jewish character and flavour has more than a hint of Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 and Kodály’s Dances of Galánta. Weinberg's deft skill in the use of Moldavian themes and folk rhythms is inspired and resourceful. Nowicka and Antoniewicz have a real feel for the character of the piece, and deliver a performance, which is both idiomatic and oozing with personality.

The performers obviously have a deep love for and commitment to Weinberg's music, and this translates into these authoritative and assured performances. Added to that, the balance between the two instruments is spot on. Well-recorded, fulsomely annotated in English, Polish and German with a cache of fascinating photos to boot, well ... there's the nub of it.

Stephen Greenbank



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