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Mieczysław WAJNBERG (WEINBERG) (1919-1996)
Sonata for Cello and Piano No.1, Op.21 (1945) [18:47]
Sonata for Cello and Piano No.2, Op.63 (1959) [21:24]
Sonata for Solo Cello No.1, Op.72 (1960) [13:44]
Berceuse No.1 (1935) [5:10]
Wojciech Fudala (cello)
Michał Rot (piano)
rec. 2017, Witold Lutosławski National Forum of Music Red Hall, Wrocław, Poland
DUX 1545 [59:20]

Dux, the Polish label can also be commended for doing a great deal to bring lesser known composers of Polish origin, and Polish musicians, to the ears of listeners throughout the world. Whilst Weinberg is, mercifully, no longer unknown and these works for cello and piano have been recorded before, some of his works have still to be recorded and Dux are as likely as any label to do so. One of the things that prevented Weinberg’s music being better known during his lifetime was the oft repeated slur that he was merely a clone of Shostakovich. Though it is a fascinating fact that there are so very many similarities in their music and that the older composer influenced the younger in many ways, the same can be said in reverse and indeed Weinberg stated in an interview how much his first sonata for cello and piano had influenced Shostakovich, becoming the inspiration for his Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op.147 written in 1975 and completed a mere four days before his death.

Weinberg’s Sonata for Cello and Piano No.1 on the other hand was written in 1945, only two years after the two composers first met. It is true that there was a meeting of minds in relation to the musical language and style the two men used and I know of no other example where two great minds thought so alike. The cello sonata is yet another rich seam of gorgeous melodies that make it difficult to let it go after it has finished but though I often felt like saying to myself “Now follow that!” Weinberg can and does, and his Sonata for Cello and Piano No.2, written fourteen years later, is as full of such ravishingly beautiful tunes as the first. The work is a musical riposte to the anti-Semitism he experienced, using as it does Jewish melodies and at its core a Kaddish-like interlude making it one of Weinberg’s most personal musical utterances.

Only one year later, in 1960, Weinberg penned his Sonata for Solo Cello. Solo cello and violin works are perhaps a more difficult listen than music that involves two or more instruments but I would urge anyone who may think a solo cello work is a step too far for them to persevere; they will be richly rewarded and after two or three hearings I guarantee it will find a permanent place in their affection.

For the disc’s final offering we have a short solo piano piece that Weinberg wrote, aged 16, in 1935 and which is a fascinating document, showing what he was capable of at such a young age and hinting as to what might follow. It is difficult to find words other than those already used to express what supremely fabulous tunes this composer could come up with and this little Berceuse, Weinberg’s very first numbered opus, is no exception and when it comes to an end you just wish it would continue.

The two young musicians on this wonderful disc are surely destined for great things; their playing is superlative and there can be no doubt what reverence they have for their musical compatriot for it shows in every note. They are not simply tied to what is on the page but have invested genuine feelings of admiration for the music and the performances are really thrilling.

The discs reviewed here are yet two more in the burgeoning number of recordings of works by Weinberg and long may it continue for doubtless there are many others in his cornucopia of compositions that await the opportunity to thrill, delight and astound us.

Steve Arloff

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