Sympathetic performances of a composer overshadowed by Shostakovich

Yuri Kalnits, Igor Yuzefovic: Weinberg

The Strad Issue: March 2023

Description: Sympathetic performances of a composer overshadowed by Shostakovich

Musicians: Yuri Kalnits, Igor Yuzefovich (violins) Michael Csányi-Wills (piano)

Works: Weinberg: Complete Works for Violin and Piano vol.4: Concertino in A minor op.42, Sonata for Two Violins op.69, Two Songs without Words, Sonata Movement, Three Pieces

Catalogue number: TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 188

This fourth volume of Mieczysław Weinberg’s complete violin music ranges widely, from miniatures written as a teenager at the Warsaw Conservatoire to a work composed in the Soviet Union in the relative artistic easing following Stalin’s death. The most substantial work, though, is the Concertino for violin written in the ‘Zhdanov’ year of 1948, the time of the greatest Stalinist strictures on what a composer could write. Recorded here for the first time in the version with piano accompaniment, it is perhaps not one of Weinberg’s most penetrating works, but attractive none the less, and Yuri Kalnits and Michael Csányi-Wills make a good case for its largely lyrical language.

Of particular interest, though recorded earlier in a more congested acoustic than the rest of the disc, are the Three Pieces Weinberg wrote in his mid-teens – a remarkably assured Nocturne, Scherzo and ‘Dream of a Doll’. Weinberg never quite managed to shake off the influence of the composers to whom he was drawn, and where Szymanowski casts a shadow over these miniatures, Prokofiev and particularly Shostakovich never seem far from the surface of the other works here. The searchingly played Songs without Words and rejected Largo from his Second Violin Sonata are typical of this, but provide a good link to the more personal Sonata for Two Violins of 1958, in which Kalnits and Igor Yuzefovich are well-matched executants, their playing sympathetic and focused.