The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: The rediscovery of Weinberg’s music continues with a convincing first volume of his violin sonatas
Musicians: Yuri Kalnits (violin) Michael Csányi-Wills (piano)
Composer: Weinberg

Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s music, although utterly distinct in itself, appears to draw upon the same well of social and political discontent that served as a creative springboard for Shostakovich’s most personal masterworks. This first volume in a complete cycle of Weinberg’s sonatas for violin opens with the relatively early First Sonata of 1943, a neo-Classical gem that owes as much to Prokofiev, in its cognoscenti-pleasing harmonic side-steps, as it does to Shostakovich in the pianistic, textural wide-spacing of the finale. The Fourth Sonata is a highly personal and inward-looking score, so, too, the Sonatina of 1949, which turns out to be far more than a mere Soviet plaisanterie. The Solo Sonata (1964) is a tougher nut to crack, hovering somewhere between Ysaÿe’s neo-Bachian reappropriations and the wild intensity of Barkauskas’s solo Partita.

Yuri Kalnits takes the music’s not inconsiderable difficulties in his stride, sustaining his characteristically velvety sound at all dynamic levels, gently cushioning Weinberg’s more explosive outbursts with a cantabile richness that avoids any hint of modernistic brashness. This pays special dividends in the Solo Sonata’s finale, whose double-stopped flutterings and headlong, moto perpetuo invincibility Kalnits throws off with virtuoso panache. Michael Csányi-Wills proves a highly sensitive and empathic partner in the accompanied works, and the engineering is both well-balanced and atmospheric.