Weinberg: Violin Sonatas, Volume 1
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Mieczysław Weinberg: Complete Violin Sonatas, Volume One

Catalogue Number: TOCC0007
EAN: 5060113440075
Release Date: 20 September 2010
Duration: 78:07

Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 12
Sonata for Violin Solo, Op. 82
Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 39
Sonatina for Violin and Piano, Op. 46

Yuri Kalnits, violin
Michael Csányi-Wills, piano

Mieczysław Weinberg, born in Warsaw in 1919, became a close friend of Shostakovich in Moscow, after fleeing eastwards before the invading Nazis in 1939. His vast output includes 26 symphonies, seven operas, seventeen string quartets and much other chamber music and some 200 songs. His style has much in common with Shostakovich, as these four violin works show: fluent contrapuntal skill, a keen feeling for melody, often inflected with Jewish cantilena, and an acute sense of drama which combines a natural narrative manner with an extraordinary ability to create atmosphere, often from just a handful of notes. Since his death in 1996, his music is being discovered by musicians and listeners all around the world.

Booklet texts   (PDF)

Track Listing, MP3 Downloads and Streaming Samples

Track No. Track Title / Details Duration Sample Add to Cart
1-3 Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, Op. 12 (1943)

Mieczysław Weinberg, composer
Yuri Kalnits, violin
Michael Csányi-Wills, piano

(first recording)
1 I. Allegro 6:04 play
2 II. Adagietto 7:00 play
3 III. Allegro 8:55 play
4-8 Sonata No. 1 for Violin Solo, Op. 82 (1964)

Mieczysław Weinberg, composer
Yuri Kalnits, violin

(first recording)
4 I. Adagio – Allegro – Adagio 5:24 play
5 II. Andante 6:11 play
6 III. Allegretto 3:51 play
7 IV. Lento 3:29 play
8 V. Presto 5:46 play
9-10 Sonata No. 4 for Violin and Piano, Op. 39 (1947)

Mieczysław Weinberg, composer
Yuri Kalnits, violin
Michael Csányi-Wills, piano
9 I. Adagio 8:57 play
10 II. Allegro ma non troppo – Adagio tenuto molto rubato (quasi Cadenza) - Adagio primo 7:45 play
11-13 Sonatina for Violin and Piano, Op. 46 (1949)

Mieczysław Weinberg, composer
Yuri Kalnits, violin
Michael Csányi-Wills, piano
11 I. Allegretto 4:59 play
12 II. Lento – Allegro – Tempo Primo 5:42 play
13 III. Allegro moderato – Lento 4:04 play


Mieczysław Weinberg

Mieczysław Weinberg, composer
[credit: Tommy Persson]

Yuri Kalnits

Yuri Kalnits, violin

Michael Csányi-Wills

Michael Csányi-Wills, piano


Extremely good start to the series

I’ve reviewed two other discs of Weinberg’s Violin Sonatas, though there are no indications yet as to whether they will be, as Toccata’s promises to be, wholly complete. One is on CPO 777 456-2, the other on Acte Préalable AP0209, and both include the important Fourth Sonata, as does this Toccata disc. But Toccata has mixed and matched wisely, including the first ever recordings of the First Sonata and the 1964 Sonata No.1 for violin solo, Op.82. This adventurous spirit ensures the disc’s value, a quality reinforced by the dedicated performances.

The 1943 First Sonata is a taut but lyrical work. Indeed its melodic breadth is a perhaps unexpected one given the date of its composition and Weinberg’s own fraught biographical circumstances. True, there is a bit of academic working out, but the predominant mood is one of beautiful warmth, exemplified best in the central slow movement. Here violinist Yuri Kalnits responds with effusive vibrato usage and both he and Michael Csányi-Wills securely locate the Bachian element that Weinberg occasionally infuses into the work. The finale is urgent, ebullient and winning.

The Fourth Sonata, written in 1947 but not premiered until1968, is a very different sort of work and this is a very different performance from any I have heard of it. It’s extremely fast. Whereas the Kirpal brothers on CPO and the Acte Préalable team of Barbara Trojanowska and Elzbieta Tyszecka took about 20 minutes or so, the Toccata performance rips through the sonata in just under a remarkable fourteen. This adds considerably to the insistent sense of flow of the music, though arguably the other two teams explore its post-Szymanowskian spookiness – Weinberg takes the violin up very high and ethereally – with greater intensity.

Soviet diktat required increased simplicity, so in 1949 Weinberg wrote the Sonatina, Op.46, a more clement and unassuming piece, with a spare slow movement, except where the tempo primo returns and we sense the music take a darkening direction. In 1964 Weinberg turned to the solo violin sonata. The angularity of the writing in this five-movement work attests to various influences, not least the obvious one of Shostakovich (always peddled out when discussing Weinberg, perhaps inevitably given the connection between them) but also Bartók. Challenging and even torrid, it is remarkable that this work has never been recorded, so all credit to the Toccata team. The very best writing comes in the ingenious Allegretto where Weinberg layers pizzicati, legato and staccati in a most impressive three-way conversation. Viewpoints shift accordingly, and its urgency is reinforced by the militant but controlled Presto finale. Other interpretative positions are possible, as the Fourth Sonata dramatically shows, but the duo sticks to its guns admirably.

The two recording venues are apt, though the piano is (deliberately, I think) slightly back in the mix. This is an extremely good start to the projected series.

Jonathan Woolf MusicWeb International February 2012

Strongly recommended

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.

Robert Maxham Fanfare September 2011

Highly recommended!

[…] Take for example the Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, Op. 12 from 1943, given here its world première recording. Its harmonic language and conflicting subjects bear Shostakovich's influence, but the melodic invention and rhythmic momentum are pure Weinberg. The interplay between the violin and piano is constantly in motion and creatively shifting the leadership role from one instrument to the other. Violinist Yuri Kalnits and pianist Michael Csányi-Wills immediately establish their deep understanding and perception of this music's substance and character, and deliver an interpretation that pulls us deeply into the music's emotional landscape. And that same level of musicianship comes across even more strongly in the strangely dark and convulsive Sonata No. 4 for Violin and Piano, Op. 39 from 1947. Its many varied moods, from solemn sadness to hyper nervous energy, all come forward very well under the hands and minds of these two fine musicians. Also on this recording are the Sonatina for Violin and Piano, Op. 46, a work of deep lyrical beauty, and the Sonata No. 1 for Violin Solo, Op. 82 from 1964, also witnessing its first recording on this CD. […]

Jean-Yves Duperron Classical Music Sentinel July 2011

Holds your attention

[…] the early Violin Sonata No. 1 of Weinberg, composed in 1943 after Weinberg had fled his native Warsaw first to Minsk and then to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, has what you might call a typical Shostakovich structure of feeling before Shostakovich himself came up with such a thing. It's an imperfect early work, with repetitive passages, but the sequence of two melancholy opening movements followed by a grimly resolute finale in folk rhythms cannot help but bring Shostakovich to mind. The other two violin-and-piano works on this British release also reflect the conditions under which Soviet composers worked; the Sonatina (tracks 11-13) consciously reflects the demands for lyrical simplicity imposed by Stalinist cultural commissars, whom the Jewish Weinberg had even more reason than Shostakovich to fear. It marks perhaps a subtler adaptation than Shostakovich's manifestations of bitter bombast, with a free structure suggesting introspection in the second of its two movements. The Sonata No. 1 for solo violin, Op. 82, is something else again, a brutally difficult technical tour de force with all of the violin's resources, including quadruple stops, deployed in the service of a unique, unrelenting quality. […]

James Manheim All Music 2011

Uber-sensitive playing

With cycles on CPO, Chandos, Neos and now Toccata Classics, Mieczysław Weinberg’s time has certainly come. It’s customary for reviewers of Weinberg’s music to issue reminders about his associations with Shostakovich — that their music shares a certain surface sinsilarity, that a letter from Shostakovieh was all that was required to rescue Weinberg frum the KGB when he was imprisoned in 1953.

But if we’re guing to throw Shostakovich-based comparisons around, Weinberg is but a pipsqueak of history compared to Galina Ustvolskaya, who managed to bypass the idiom of Shostakovich’s music and peer into the “thing” itself, which is why it’s better to judge Weinberg’s music on its own considerable strengths. As booklet-note writer and source of all Weinberg knowledge David Fanning implies, the First Violin Sonata (1943) plods over the long haul, but its deliberate melodic contours, subtle shades of Bach and bold chromatic hopscotch contain the kernel of his art.

Yuri Kalnits and Michael Csányi-Wills prove uber-sensitive to Weinberg’s harmonic push-pull, and Kalnits’s performance of the Sonata No 1 for Violin Solo (1964) rolls with the technical punches like a true heavyweight: especially intriguing is the central Allegretto movement, where disembodied pizzicato, scampering melodic cells and march rhythms chase each other’s tales, and I like the way Kalnits resists any temptation to smooth off these structural disjoints, accepting that this material is irreconcilable. The Fourth Violin Sonata opens with unaccompanied piano, the distinction between foreground and background freakishly distorted, the harmony dropped into alien terrain midway. The Sonatina was one for The Party but is stuffed with peekaboo ambiguities.

Philip Clark Gramophone 2011


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