Weinberg: Complete Violin Sonatas, Vol. 1

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WEINBERG Solo Violin Sonata No. 1. Violin Sonatas: No. 1; No. 4. Sonatina • Yuri Kalnits (vn); Michael Csányi-Wills (pn) • TOCCATA 0007 (78:08)Violinist Yuri...

WEINBERG Solo Violin Sonata No. 1. Violin Sonatas: No. 1; No. 4. Sonatina • Yuri Kalnits (vn); Michael Csányi-Wills (pn) • TOCCATA 0007 (78:08)

Violinist Yuri Kalnits and Michael Csányi-Wills recorded their program of violin music by the Russian composer Mieczys?aw Weinberg in two sessions: August 26–30, 2008, at Champs Hill, Coldwaltham (Sonata No. 1, Sonata No. 4, and the Sonatina), and July 13–18, 2009, at Moviefonics Studio in West London (the solo sonata). This constitutes the first volume in what will apparently be a complete set of the composer’s violin sonatas. Toccata bills the recordings of the First Sonata and the solo sonata as recording premieres.

The program opens with the three-movement First Sonata, which, according to David Fanning’s notes, Weinberg composed in 1943 after settling in Moscow. The sonata’s opening passages combine firmly tonal lyricism with sardonic punctuation, and although the harmonies eventually cloud over and grow less securely centered, they remain within a tonal orbit; and although its lyricism gives way to both slashing and motoric passages, in the manner of Dmitri Shostakovich, who inspired Weinberg, its melodic patterns hardly seem to cultivate unbroken ground. Kalnits sounds ardent—almost romantic—in his tone production (though he strops a keen edge on the angular passages), not only in the opening Allegro but especially at the outset of the Adagietto second movement. The engineers have captured his tonal glow, especially in the lower registers (they seem to have placed Csányi-Wills’s piano a slight distance behind Kalnits’s violin). The duo move alertly back and forth between the finale’s alternate cheerfulness and vigor and bring the sonata to an imposing conclusion.

The five-movement Solo Violin Sonata, 24-odd minutes in duration (in this performance), from 1964, inhabits an entirely different universe, less centered tonally, more dissonant, and less flowing both rhythmically and melodically. Thrusting in its first movement in a manner similar to that of Béla Bartók’s Solo Violin Sonata, it takes no prisoners—and neither does Kalnits, who enters into its more dour spirit, cavorting among its thorns. In the second movement, which begins after what sounds like an inconclusive final passage in the first, he shrieks his way through the predominantly double-stopped textures and effectively contrasts the aggressive pizzicatos with the more playful and lyrical sections to which they give way. Kalnits forcefully hammers the dissonant double-stops and chords of the ensuing Lento until quieter passages bring the movement to a close. The Presto, which begins almost immediately, recalls the finale of Bartók’s Solo Violin Sonata thematically, but without its ethnic outbursts. In fact, the entire sonata sounds like an internationalized version of Bartók’s, carrying its harmonic implications even further and stretching the violinist’s technique even less mercifully. Kalnits possesses ample resources to follow wherever Weinberg leads.

The Fourth Violin Sonata, from 1947, returns listeners to fringes of the First Sonata’s tonal world, although this sonata sounds much darker in the duo’s searing reading of its first movement. They dispel this atmosphere in an irresistible burst of energy in the second movement’s first section, and follow its biting premise through the cadenza that leads to the solemn conclusion. The duo’s expressive intensity makes this sonata a spellbinding emotional journey of discovery for listeners, as it must have been for the performers. Violinist Stefan Kirpal and pianist Andreas Kirpal also took this journey, on cpo 777 456 (David Fanning wrote the booklet notes for both releases), exploring the first movement’s more reflective side—as, for example, in the dark, complex opening contrapuntal piano solo—but no more ardent in the eloquent violin solo, and just about as incisive and visceral in the Allegro sections of the second movement. The Kirpal duo takes 19:58 for the journey, while Kalnits and Csányi-Wills completes it in 13:44. But how much of the atmosphere Andreas Kirpal creates in the opening piano solo would you trade for any added excitement in what follows?

The Sonatina, which Fanning assigns to 1949 and describes as an attempt to respond to the Soviet criticism that engulfed Soviet composers at the time, sounds more straightforward in its first movement, in which Kalnits alternately soars and engages in muted, plaintive conversation with Csányi-Wills, especially at the end. Violinist and pianist continue to explore this haunted ambiance through the second movement’s opening section, while he and Csányi-Wills wax extroverted in the middle section, which begins almost with the abrupt discontinuity of a separate movement. In their reading of the finale they mix ferocity with vigorous burlesque.

The release should provide a most auspicious introduction to Weinberg’s violin music, offering a chameleon-like variety that extends from the feral onslaught of the Solo Sonata to the profundities of the Fourth Sonata and to the outright melodiousness of the First. Strongly recommended for repertoire, performances, and recorded sound.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham

Product Description:

  • Release Date: September 21, 2010

  • UPC: 5060113440075

  • Catalog Number: TOCC0007

  • Label: Toccata Classics

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Mieczyslaw Weinberg

  • Performer: Michael Csáanyi-Wills, Yuri Kalnits