The music of Polish-Russian-Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, hardly known a generation ago, has been dispersed by the efforts of the Naxos label to record neglected 20th century symphonies and Russian expat conductors. His chamber music, however, remains a rare find, and what a find it is. Weinberg lost his family to the depredations of the Nazis in Poland, and ended up on the bad side of Soviet authorities as well despite the support of Shostakovich, who influenced his music. The Piano Quintet, Op. 18 (1944), one of the first works he wrote in the Soviet Union, has the deadly serious tone of Shostakovich's chamber music during World War II, and it's altogether remarkable, a chaotic statement from the midst of wartime as powerful in its way as the Shostakovich Symphony No. 7. The Attacca Quartet from the U.S., not a country known for great Shostakovich performances, is up to the work's considerable emotional (not to mention technical) challenges. Sample the second of its five movements, with the sardonic effect created by the long passages pairing the piano with pizzicato strings. The integration of the piano and the string quartet is masterly throughout. Both this work and the Sonata No. 2 for cello and piano, Op. 63 (played here by Attacca Quartet cellist Andrew Yee and the pianist from the quartet, Jeanne Golan), are cyclical in form and add deep resonances to that device. The Sonatine for piano, Op. 49, is something else again, a counterpoint to Shostakovich's piano preludes. Although the presence of Shostakovich looms large, there is always something distinctive to Weinberg himself in the music here, and if you've been avoiding Weinberg on the suspicion that he may be derivative, this is a good place to start. Excellent and idiomatic sound from Steinway Hall in New York is another attraction.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Quintet for Piano and String Quartet, Op. 18|
|Sonatine for Piano, Op. 49|
|Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano, Op. 63|