The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Alexander Chaushian (cello) Yevgeny Sudbin (piano)
Composer: Weinberg

Armenian-born Alexander Chaushian makes a persuasive case for the music of Moisey Weinberg in this his first solo CD. Weinberg fled Warsaw for Russia in 1939, moving to Moscow in 1943 at the invitation of Shostakovich. Both his Sonata for solo cello and his Cello Concerto were premiered by Rostropovich, and there’s a recording on Russian Disc of Weinberg playing both of his accompanied sonatas with Rostropovich pupil Alla Vasilieva two years before his death in 1996.

Both prolific composers, Shostakovich and Weinberg had a close musical relationship, and though Weinberg undoubtedly saw himself as a disciple of Shostakovich, Weinberg’s own use of Jewish musical idioms certainly rubbed off on the older composer.
Weinberg’s predilection for unaccompanied cello is obvious even in the First Cello Sonata, which opens with an extensive, rather melancholy solo introduction, eloquently phrased by Chaushian, and has at the centre of its second movement a long solo cello cadenza, moving from reflection to some highly expressive double-stopping. In its more stormy moments, Chaushian, despite projecting for all he’s worth, is drowned out by the more resonant piano in this clear, bright recording.

You can imagine Rostropovich playing the solo sonata – perhaps because its Allegro brings to mind the Moto perpetuo of Britten’s first suite from four years later. Chaushian, who studied with Kagan and then Pergamenschikow and David Geringas, plays the 18th-century-style Allegretto with a delightfully gentle touch, its pizzicato moments dextrously accomplished, and gives persuasive and committed performances of both this and Sonata no.2, whose Bartókian finale closes in a mad frenzy of rocking quavers.