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Weinberg: Complete Violin Sonatas... / Linus Roth

Weinberg / Roth / Gallardo
Release Date: 07/09/2013 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72567   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  José GallardoLinus Roth
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 44 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WEINBERG Violin Sonatas: No. 5, op. 53; No. 4, op. 39; No. 3, op. 37; No. 2, op. 15; No. 1, op. 12; No. 6, op. 136. Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, op. 47/3. Sonatina, op. 46. Three Pieces Read more Linus Roth (vn); José Gallardo (pn) CHALLENGE 608917256727 (3 CDs: 163:46)

In Fanfare 35:1, I strongly recommended violinist Yuri Kalnits and pianist Michael Csányi-Wills’s recording (Toccata 0007) of the First and Fourth of Mieczys?aw Weinberg’s violin sonatas, together with his First Sonata for solo violin and his Sonatina. Many have noted Weinberg’s emergence, and now violinist Linus Roth and pianist José Gallardo have provided a complete recording of everything the composer wrote for the combination of instruments (with the exception, according to Jens F. Laurson’s notes, of two further pieces identified but not yet discovered). Weinberg wrote most of these works in the 1940s and 1950s, after he arrived in Moscow, with the Three Pieces coming from the 1930s and the Sixth Sonata from 1982. Roth and Gallardo take the works out of order, beginning with the four-movement Fifth Sonata from 1953, dedicated to Shostakovich, who served as a sort of mentor and protector for Weinberg. Roth draws a strong and pure tone from the 1703 Dancla Stradivari, especially in the upper registers, and takes advantage of its full dynamic range in the darkly lyrical first movement and presses forward in the second. But the abrasive second movement calls forth a more aggressive kind of tone production, with passages that nearly shriek and grind. Still, urgent lyricism underlies much of the movement; and there, the beauty of Roth’s tone may serve for some as a spoonful of sugar that will change the passages’ flavor. The gnomic themes of the third movement suggest a scherzo; Roth and Gallardo slither beguilingly between their appearances. Speaking of slithering, the multi-sectional Finale begins with gently burbling passages, interspersed with passages of urgent lyricism. At least, it seems urgent, like much else in Roth’s and Gallardo’s performance. Besides the recording on Toccata, mentioned above, there’s another by violinist Stefan Kirpal and pianist Andreas Kirpal, on CPO 777 456. Kirpal traversed the Sonata in 19:58, while Kalnits took only 13:44. Roth, at 18:31, falls closer to Kirpal’s timing, perhaps suggesting that a consensus has been emerging.

The first movement of the Fourth Sonata sounds significantly darker, but hardly so bleak as do violin sonatas by Prokofiev (No. 1 in F minor) and Shostakovich. The second movement, a biting scherzo of sorts, elicits from the violin the sort of sharp interjections that characterize the scherzo of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, although Weinberg’s work, while insistently driven like Shostakovich’s, never sounds quite so flippant. Roth and Gallardo shift gears quickly for the contemplative conclusion.

Laurson points out that the Moldavian Themes in the Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes (from 1949 and 1952) really come from the Moldavian Jewish tradition, which Weinberg intentionally didn’t mention. David Oistrakh played the piece, which represents its folk tradition in flamboyant yet introverted, quasi-exploratory, passages that alternate with flashing virtuosity, including blazing fast passages and eerie sul ponticello effects. Roth proves to be effective in both manners.

The second disc opens with the three-movement Third Sonata from 1947, in which, Laurson contends, Weinberg found his voice as a composer for the violin. The tonal range of this Sonata seems more restricted at first than in either of the two previously heard in the program—certainly greater than that of the Fourth, but also than that of the Fifth, as well—but begins to stray farther afield in the second movement. Roth and Gallardo create a haunted atmosphere in the second movement, with Roth rising thrillingly into the upper registers, especially well supported there by the violin upon which he plays, although it’s also richly suggestive in the middle of its range. The Finale, the longest of the movements, features moments of biting dissonant double-stops and dogged repeated notes in the piano that underlie passages of rhythmic drive and power. Again, the violin’s tessitura in much of the figuration remains exceptionally high, almost at times resembling whistling in Roth’s performance, but the effect’s far from cheerful—hardly even like whistling past the graveyard. The duo brings this work to what seems a quietly agitated conclusion.

The list of works identifies the three-movement Sonatina from 1949, which also appeared in Kirpal’s program, as being in D Major; it remains firmly tonal throughout its comparatively light-hearted, soaringly lyrical first movement. As in the other works, Weinberg demonstrates here a predilection for the violin’s upper registers. Roth and Gallardo adopt a more veiled expressivity in the meditative second movement, adapting to its middle section’s declamation, by turns more animated and more strenuous. In the Finale Roth and Gallardo return to the first movement’s teasing, gracious manner, at least before the movement’s surprising somber turn.

The Second Sonata, from 1944, also falls into three movements and seems no less firm in its tonal harmonic foundations in its first movement than does the Sonatina. Laurson cites Roth’s opinion of the work as a transitional one, looking forward to the darker acerbity of the later sonatas. The first movement includes piquantly exotic passages that grow insistent as the movement progresses and sudden and unexpected soaring statements—foreshadowings, perhaps, of things to come. Roth and Gallardo sound more restrained at the outset of the searching slow movement and increase the intensity in the movement’s middle. They emphasize Weinberg’s harmonic twists in the last movement, twists neither so witty as Prokofiev’s (although at times his melodic and harmonic contours seem to resemble the older composer’s—almost to the point of quotation) nor so bitterly sardonic as Shostakovich’s.

The third disc comprises the earliest and latest sonatas and the Three Pieces. In the three-movement First Sonata, from 1943, Weinberg occasionally allows phrases to answer each other with almost classical regularity and, compared to the other sonatas—and even to the Sonatina—it projects a sense of greater repose. Roth and Gallardo settle into this more relaxed manner in the first movement. Laurson describes Weinberg as Shostakovich without the smile; and if any smile crosses his features, it surely does so in the second movement of this work, a traditional lyrical outpouring that adheres to the kind of writing for violin common in the preceding period in the development of its literature. The third movement begins with the kind of motoric passages that would develop in incisiveness in the later sonatas but also resolves into melodies with surprising turns in Prokofiev’s manner, all in a firmly tonal context.

The three-movement Sixth Sonata from 1982 comes from a time when Weinberg had just discovered the fate of his family at the hands of the Nazis. Opening with a cadenza for violin that repeats motives in a manner similar to that of the scherzo of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, its melody and harmony seem pared down to essentials in the spiky, dissonant and intensely motivic first movement, as haunting in its jagged moments as in its more lyrical ones. Lyrical ones dominate the slow, serenely flowing, second movement (although it encounters some turbulence part way downstream). The third movement sounds more desolate in this performance, bringing to a conclusion an overpowering musical utterance from composer and performers alike.

The Three Pieces (“Nokturn,” “Scherzo,” and “Sen o Lalce”) come, according to Laurson, from Weinberg’s teenage years in Warsaw. Already, they display a keen ear for almost impressionistic harmonic, melodic, and timbral possibilities in the “Nokturn”; strongly but fitfully rhythmic banter (in high registers) in the Scherzo; and reflective brooding (and loosening harmonic bonds) in “Sen o Lalce”—all three manners prefiguring things to come. The recorded sound throughout captures the performers close up but at a respectful distance that surrounds them with reverberation.

Some listeners may conclude that Weinberg not only lacked Shostakovich’s smile but also the strength of his personality. I’d justify acquiring this set just to discover how consistently his personality really did reveal itself over a period of more than 50 years, whatever his influences at any particular time. Strongly recommended for both the performances and the repertoire, perhaps most urgently for the widely different Sonatina and Sixth Sonata.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Violin and Piano no 5, Op. 53 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  José Gallardo (Piano), Linus Roth (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953 
Venue:  Motor Music Studio, Mechelen, Belgium 
Length: 22 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 4, Op. 39 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  José Gallardo (Piano), Linus Roth (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947 
Venue:  Motor Music Studio, Mechelen, Belgium 
Length: 9 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Moldavian Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 47 no 3 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  José Gallardo (Piano), Linus Roth (Violin)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1949 
Venue:  Motor Music Studio, Mechelen, Belgium 
Length: 10 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 3, Op. 37 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  José Gallardo (Piano), Linus Roth (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947 
Venue:  Motor Music Studio, Mechelen, Belgium 
Length: 20 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Sonatina for Violin and Piano in D major, Op. 46 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Linus Roth (Violin), José Gallardo (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949 
Venue:  Motor Music Studio, Mechelen, Belgium 
Length: 16 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2, Op. 15 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  José Gallardo (Piano), Linus Roth (Violin)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1944 
Venue:  Motor Music Studio, Mechelen, Belgium 
Length: 20 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1, Op. 12 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Linus Roth (Violin), José Gallardo (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943 
Venue:  Motor Music Studio, Mechelen, Belgium 
Length: 22 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 6, Op. 136b by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Linus Roth (Violin), José Gallardo (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1982 
Venue:  Motor Music Studio, Mechelen, Belgium 
Length: 15 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Pieces (3) for Violin and Piano by Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Performer:  Linus Roth (Violin), José Gallardo (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934 
Venue:  Motor Music Studio, Mechelen, Belgium 
Length: 16 Minutes 2 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Fantastic! November 12, 2014 By R. MAXWELL (LONG BEACH, CA) See All My Reviews "Fantastic music and fantastic sound. This is the best recording I have purchased this year. (Mr. Roth's performance of the Weinberg Violin Concerto is also excellent.) Cursed plastic packaging arrived broken: I wish music companies would all shift to boxes with the discs in sleeves. If you like DSCH, you will love these violin works." Report Abuse
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