Polish-born Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg wanted to come to the U.S. but fled eastward when Hitler invaded Poland and remained in the Soviet Union, even though his position there under Stalin was still perilous. He was befriended and admired by Shostakovich, who could not keep him out of prison but may well have saved his life. Some of his work shows the clear influence of Jewish musical idioms. The two works on this album, however, are less definitely part of a Jewish tradition, although annotator Marion Méndez (in notes given in German, English, and French) points to a "dualism of jest and tragedy...proper to Jewish music" in the Piano Sonata No. 1; the description might also apply to some of the three sets of Children's Notebooks, Opp. 16, 19, and 23. Those three sets are given in full on the album, and it's not clear where one set leaves off and the next begins. The piano sonata, a student work, is substantial and imaginative, but the real news here are the Children's Notebooks, for which the rather delicate style of Russian pianist Elisaveta Blumina is better suited. Although written for the composer's 12-year-old daughter, they are more like Schumann's Kinderszenen than Bartók's Mikrokosmos. They're works that a talented young pianist might undertake, but they contain technical demands that set them apart from the realm of the instructional, and many of them have quite a bit of emotional heft. Sample the various slow pieces to get a feel for the serious nature of the whole, and also for the individuality of Weinberg's style. Although he and Shostakovich occupy the same section of the 20th century musical continuum, nothing here sounds much like Shostakovich. There are lots of pieces here that might be profitably incorporated into piano recitals, and pianists above all are advised to check out this almost forgotten music.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Children's Notebooks 1-3, Opp. 16, 19 & 23|
|Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 5|