Weinberg: Complete Violin Sonatas, Vol. 3 / Csányi-Wills, Kalnits

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If Mieczyslaw Weinberg had lived for another decade or so after his death in 1996, he would have seen his status change from poorly known...

If Mieczyslaw Weinberg had lived for another decade or so after his death in 1996, he would have seen his status change from poorly known outlier to general acceptance as one of the major twentieth-century composers. His violin works have likewise been recognized as major additions to the repertoire. Since Yuri Kalnits and Michael Csányi-Wills began what will be a four-volume survey of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s music for violin and piano, other musicians have discovered and recorded many of these masterworks, but on its completion this cycle will still be the first to record all of Weinberg’s works for solo violin and violin and piano.


The most ingratiating music comes right at the start, with the first movement Allegro moderato of the Violin Sonata No.3 from 1947. Its four minutes begin with a lyrical theme of varying phrase lengths which the players keep flowing as it were “in one breath”. The fugato style second subject is a perkier counterweight and the sonata form progression is coherently delivered, and the lowish emotional temperature feels just right as there are two movements each twice the length of this one to come. The Andantino is cooler still, and David Fanning’s booklet note informs us that the additional phrase for that marking molto rubato and all other expression marks were removed by Weinberg, so that the players could find their own way of presenting the flexibility he wanted. He could certainly trust this pair whose interpretation makes much of the movement sound questing and improvisatory.

The Allegretto cantabile finale has clear Shostakovich chamber music echoes, as Fanning mentions, specifically the klezmer elements. In fact, in his book on Weinberg, Fanning cites this work of being “one of the comparatively few…that bear out the criticism that (Weinberg) occasionally sought shelter in the shadow of Shostakovich” and mentions “near-literal borrowings”. Nonetheless most of it is still quite individual, not least the slow violin cadenza that closes the work, in which Yuri Kalnits is very commanding.

The other violin and piano sonata here, Weinberg’s sixth and last, was discovered only in 2007, twenty years after the composer’s death, and given the opus number 136bis. Its fifteen-minute single movement, on the template Moderato - Allegro – Moderato – Allegro, opens with a long violin solo. David Fanning notes its similarity to the bell theme in the finale of Rachmaninov’s First Suite for Two Pianos, and although bells often resound in Russian music from Boris Godunov to Stravinsky’s late Requiem Canticles, not many are found in a violin solo! The piano does not enter until two minutes in, and then has its own long solo at the end of this opening Moderato. This is almost texture as three-part form – solo violin, piano and violin duo, then solo piano. Whether playing together or alone, Kalnits and Csanyi-Wills hold the attention throughout this spare and haunting piece.

Arguably the most important work on the disc is the one-movement Sonata No. 3 for Solo Violin from 1979, dedicated to Weinberg’s father. Its nearly twenty-four minute continuous span make for a demanding listen, but Kalnits’s excellent performance makes a persuasive case.

-- MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 05, 2021

  • UPC: 5060113440969

  • Catalog Number: TOCC0096

  • Label: Toccata Classics

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Mieczyslaw Weinberg

  • Performer: Yuri Kalnits, Michael Csányi-Wills