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Russian Piano Music Series, Vol. 9: Mieczyslaw Weinberg

Weinberg / Mclachlan
Release Date: 10/09/2012 
Label:  Divine Art   Catalog #: 25105   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Murray McLachlan
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WEINBERG Piano Sonatas: No. 1; No. 2; No. 3. 17 Easy Pieces, Op. 24 Murray McLachlan (pn) DIVINE ART DDA25105 (70:37)

History, the greatest of critics, quickly sorts out the fine, and even the very fine, from the great. It has not assigned Mieczys?aw Weinberg a place in the front ranks of composers, but still, the music of Weinberg is indeed very fine. He is a superb craftsman, and, like the more prominent Shostakovich and Prokofiev, his Read more compositions are relentlessly intense, and their sharply chiseled structure glares out at us, refusing to be forgotten. Weinberg has a considerable melodic gift as well, but somehow the sounds—unmistakably Soviet sounds—do not seem to be his own. The usual references to bombs, bells, marches, the hardness of life, do not often cast their spell. Even so, they certainly reflect the times, but Prokofiev and Shostakovich, reflect something about themselves as well. That seems to be the missing element in these sonatas.

The term “Silver Age,” sometimes used to describe the poetry of Sologub and Blok, very well suits the works of their musical contemporaries. One is tempted to call the following, the Soviet era, the “Stainless-Steel Age:” cold, rigid, hard-edged. The sonatas of Shostakovich and Prokofiev often demand these qualities, and a “stainless steel” sound crept into the playing of the artists of the times such as Yudina and Sofronitski. So much so that even when they played Schubert, Tchaikovsky, or Rachmaninoff, that new hard sound was there. Weinberg seems to invite such an approach, but it is pleasant to hear his work played by Murray McLachlan who has a beautiful supple tone, adding a wider field of sonority and textures than one would expect from works such as these. His pianissimo s are remarkably beautiful. The only comparison available to me is the American pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti who has recorded some of the sonatas for Grand Piano Records. Although she plays with integrity and conviction, McLachlan is more imaginative, and perhaps has the technical edge on her as well.

FANFARE: Raymond Beegle


Murray McLachlan’s Olympia recordings of Weinberg’s solo piano music have been reissued on Divine Art. This volume, the ninth of the Russian Piano Music series, in which Weinberg’s is placed, contains his first three sonatas and the Easy Pieces cycle (see review of Sonatas 4-6). All the works were written between 1940 and 1946.

The First sonata of 1940 was written when Weinberg was 21. It opens with a startling bell cluster but from then the music subsides to extreme refinement and delicacy for much of the next seven minutes: this movement lasts almost as long as the succeeding three. They are variously an exciting Allegretto, a taut Andantino and a finale that becomes increasingly dramatic and extroverted. The Second sonata (1942) was premiered by Emil Gilels who had also played the earlier work as well. The opening Allegro of this Second sonata sounds uncannily like a near cousin of the finale of No.1 in its explosive energy levels. It’s followed by one of Weinberg’s characteristic drily witty cum wintry Allegrettos. The slow movement twists its way harmonically, even ruggedly at points, whilst the finale quotes from Haydn’s Symphony No.88, the first Allegro in fact.

The Third sonata is a more powerfully wide ranging work than its two predecessors. It has a quasi-improvisational quality and a folk-inspired slow movement theme and variations that are appealing and textually attractive. Much is largely melancholy and withdrawn, but much is also beautiful. There’s a three-part fugue to finish the sonata. Finally the 17 Easy Pieces, Op.24 which are not quite the pedagogic beginner’s material that they might at first seem. In fact several require a strong technique to do justice to these mood or character pieces. They certainly met the insatiable demand for such material in the Soviet Union extremely well.

The acoustic in Ensemble Hall, in Gothenburg University’s Music Department is a touch dry but does little to obscure McLachlan’s thoroughly idiomatic and assured playing.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano no 1, Op. 5 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Murray McLachlan (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940 
Date of Recording: 11/1996 
Venue:  Ensemble Hall, Gothenburg University Mus 
Length: 7 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Sonata for Piano no 2, Op. 8 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Murray McLachlan (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942 
Date of Recording: 11/1996 
Venue:  Ensemble Hall, Gothenburg University Mus 
Length: 4 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Sonata for Piano no 3, Op. 31 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Murray McLachlan (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946 
Date of Recording: 11/1996 
Venue:  Ensemble Hall, Gothenburg University Mus 
Length: 9 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Easy Pieces (21) for Piano, Op. 34 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Murray McLachlan (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1946 
Date of Recording: 11/1996 
Venue:  Ensemble Hall, Gothenburg University Mus 
Length: 12 Minutes 28 Secs. 

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