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Weinberg, Shostakovich: Piano Trios / Leschetizky Trio

Release Date: 10/23/2007 
Label:  Cascavelle   Catalog #: 3104   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Dmitri ShostakovichMieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Klara FliederStanislaw TichonowChristophe Pantillon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leschetizky Trio Wien
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 55 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

M. WEINBERG Piano Trio in A. SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Trio No. 2 Leschetizky Tr Vienna CASCAVELLE 3104 (54:59)

To preclude confusion, Mieczyslaw Weinberg, as he is identified on this CD, is in fact one and the same as Moisei Samuilovich Vainberg (1919–1996), the name by which he is better known, at least in the West. So, if you already have other recordings of his music in your collection filed under “V,” you’ll have to decide where to put this one. Read more I’ve solved it by filing it under “S” for Shostakovich. For the purpose of this review, Weinberg shall hereinafter be referred to as Vainberg.

Born into a Polish Jewish family, Vainberg was accepted at the age of 12 by the Warsaw Conservatory. Four years later he was producing his first mature works. With war looming on the horizon, he had an opportunity to continue his studies in the U.S., but instead remained in Poland until the Nazi invasion of 1939. It was then that his parents sent Vainberg and his sister to what they thought was a safe haven in the Soviet Union, where after the war, during Stalin’s last years, the situation for Jews was almost as precarious as it had been in Germany, Austria, Poland, and under France’s Vichy regime. Finally, in 1953, Vainberg was arrested, interrogated, and likely tortured on false allegations and trumped up charges of being involved in some Jewish plot. Though he was not a student of Shostakovich, it was only through the elder composer’s intervention that Vainberg was released from prison and the charges dropped.

Vainberg’s output is fairly extensive—six operas, 20 symphonies, 17 string quartets, and scores for some 40 films, plus much else. While he achieved recognition among his peers, and was regarded as the logical successor to Shostakovich, his music was only infrequently performed, much of it was unpublished, and he has only been “discovered” by Western audiences within the last decade or so. A while back there was an ongoing effort by Olympia Records to promote Vainberg’s complete works. It seems to have gotten about as far as about 20 volumes, of which I managed to obtain about a half dozen, before it petered out; and now I’m not sure if they’re even available anymore.

In any case, Vainberg is a composer well worth exploring. Whether or not he inherited the Shostakovich mantle may be argued, but his musical vocabulary and mode of expression are quite different and fully his own. In note writer Alexander Weksler’s words, Vainberg’s 1945 A-Major Trio is “a blend of medieval monodic dirge, Baroque imitative polyphony, modern instrumental cantilena, chromatic pantonality in the style of Prokofiev, and a nearly dodecaphonic principle of tonal regeneration.” That’s not just a mouthful; it’s an earful too. Yet, oddly, the piece does not sound at all like the jumble of stylistic contradictions and incompatibilities Weksler’s description of it suggests. To the contrary, it comes across as an extraordinarily integrated, coherent, and cogent work that is also highly expressive and at moments quite emotionally affecting, as towards the end of the third movement, titled “Poème.”

Though I did have more than passing familiarity with Vainberg’s music before receiving this disc for review, the A-Major Piano Trio is not one of his works I’d heard before. Rarely does 20th-century music grab me the way this piece did. I actually listened to it three times in a row before putting a word of this to paper. Having no other recordings on hand to compare it to, I can only say that the Leschetizky Trio Vienna sound to me as if they were born to play this music. I do note, however, that there are a couple of competing versions listed, one with violinist Dmitri Sitkovetsky and cellist David Geringas on Hänssler Classic, and one on Albany titled “Darkness and Light,” which appears to be sponsored by or a production of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

With a current listing of 62 recordings, Shostakovich’s E-Minor Piano Trio would seem to be his second most popular work, eclipsed only by recordings of his Fifth Symphony, and then not by very many. Extant versions can be separated into two categories: those played by established piano trio ensembles—the Beaux Arts, Borodin, Eroica, Florestan, Wanderer, and Yuval Trios, for example—and those played by well-known soloists who form ad-hoc groups to make chamber music together— Martha Argerich, Maxim Vengerov, and Gautier Capuçon; Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis, and Olli Mustonen; Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer, and Mischa Maisky; or Isaac Stern, Yo-Yo Ma, and Emanuel Ax.

The difficulty one faces in making a choice is that the piece has become such an established part of the standard piano trio repertoire, and is now so ingrained in our Western ears that an interpretive orthodoxy has grown up around it that exerts a strong influence on its performance, as for example, in the way the hairpin crescendo-decrescendo swells in the Allegro con brio second movement are handled.

All of this is to say that the new Leschetizky Trio Vienna is excellent but not better than any of those mentioned above, for I find precious few interpretive differences that set them apart. Considering that the Leschetizky are in some pretty celebrated company here, I’d say that’s a strong endorsement. What makes this release special though is definitely the Vainberg. For that alone, the CD is highly recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Trio for Piano and Strings no 2 in E minor, Op. 67 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Klara Flieder (Violin), Stanislaw Tichonow (Piano), Christophe Pantillon (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leschetizky Trio Wien
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USSR 
Venue:  Bösendorfer Hall, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 26 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Notes: Bösendorfer Hall, Vienna, Austria (12/2005 - 03/2006) 
Trio for Piano and Strings, Op. 24 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Stanislaw Tichonow (Piano), Klara Flieder (Violin), Christophe Pantillon (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leschetizky Trio Wien
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USSR 
Venue:  Bösendorfer Hall, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 28 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Notes: Bösendorfer Hall, Vienna, Austria (12/2005 - 03/2006) 

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