MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG: Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 2; Piano Quintet – Christoph Stradner, cello, Doris Adam and Luca Monti, p. and EOS-Quartett Vienna – Neos 11128, 67:06 [Distr. by Naxos] ***:
Russian composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996) was Polish born. Being Jewish, he fled to Russia when the German war-machine marched on Poland. He remained in Russia and became a friend of Shostakovitch. He was considered on a par with Shostakovitch and Prokofiev, at least according to some reviewers.
Some confusion arises as his name had been spelled various ways: Vainberg or Vaynberg (in Russian) or Wajnberg (in Polish). Weinberg seems to be the current agreed upon spelling. He was a prolific composer and many of his compositions have been recorded over the years, mostly by Eastern European labels. A new German label Neos has taken up the banner and charged ahead with the assistance of Austrian Radio (ORF), the Bregenzer Festspiele, and Polska music. Neos packages the Weinberg discs lavishly, in a tri-fold case that includes some pictures of the composer, an extensive booklet (in German, English, Polish and French) on the music and the composer and plenty of recording information.
The Sonata for Violincello and Piano No. 2 (1959) is described in the booklet as “lyrical in tone and display(s) the cantabile character of the cello…” The third movement is described, “The percussive use of the piano…somewhat recalls the combination of folk music and modern harmony in Bartók’s Allegro barbaro.” I like Bartok and I like Shostakovitch, but based on the two works on this disc, I don’t like Weinberg, regrettably.
The Piano Quintet, Op. 18 (1944) incorporates more than enough bleakness and dejection to induce severe depression. I can understand Weinberg’s mood in 1944, having lost his family in the Holocaust, not to mention the swirling horrors of war. This music is disquieting and distressing. There seems little hope here. Perhaps, after another six or seven hearings this music will seep in to my consciousness. Or, maybe some of his other music is not so severe.
The recording is very good as are the performances. Recommended for those who wish for a gloomy day.