PROKOFIEV: Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 80; Violin Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 94a; RACHMANINOV: Marguerite (trans. Kreisler); TCHAIKOVSKY: Melodie, Op. 42 – Sidney Weiss, violin/ Jeanne Weiss, piano – Crystal Records CD882, 58:28 (3/2/15) ****:

Sidney Weiss has had a long career as concertmaster of major symphony orchestras: the Chicago Symphony (1967 to 1972), the Monte Carlo Philharmonic (1973 to 1979) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1979 to 1994). This CD represents a first-time release of a concert recorded live in 1968 at the Kimball Hall, Chicago.

The somber Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 80 (1938) by Sergei Prokofiev, conceived with David Oistrakh in mind after a Baroque “church sonata,” captures the spirit of the times, its opening Andante assai haunted by runs and scales that convey “the wind in the graveyard.”  Weiss plays the edition released through Joseph Szigeti. The percussive Allegro brusco exploits close imitation to enhance both the discordance and the flights of lyrical melancholy in the movement. Despite the adversarial relationship between the instruments, recording engineer Norman Pellegrini has kept a resonantly sepulchral balance intact. The ternary-form Andante provides a respite in the midst of an emotional desert, with the Weiss Duo’s weaving an elegant middle section in 12/8 that reminds us of the composer’s ballet Cinderella. Almost as savage as music by Bartok, the Allegrissimo last movement exploits a series of metric irregularities in 5/8, 7/8 and 8/8. The moto perpetuo study in musical bravura emanates a dark dazzling fury, a kind a musical analogy to Milton’s Satan or Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Oistrakh and composer Prokofiev found that the 1943 Flute Sonata adapted itself idiomatically for the violin, and so the light and lyrically gracious D Major Sonata emerged in 1944 with emendations in bowing, articulation, and registration suitable to the new instrument. Once more, the alternating slow and fast movements invoke the church sonatas of the Baroque period. The easy sway of the opening Moderato enchants us. Displaced accents make the Scherzo captivating, playful once more in the manner of the balletic figure of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.  Elegant and eminently lyrical, the Andante becomes a wordless song under the Weiss Duo’s fingers. In the tradition of Haydn’s sonata-rondo forms – his own Classical Symphony – Prokofiev presses his wit forward in the Allegro con brio, the piano part’s double octaves allowing Jeanne Weiss her musical due.

The Rachmaninov song transcription plays as an ardent hymn to love. The Melodie of Tchaikovsky, from his Souvenir of a Beloved Place, Op. 42, projects the same intensity of expression we know fom Nathan Milstein, testifying to the exalted atmosphere the Weiss Duo inhabits.

—Gary Lemco