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29.04.2017 - New Release VIOLIN SOLO Vol.9

Tenderness and severity
Renate Eggebrecht plays Weinberg's unaccompanied violin sonatas

Combining all three of Mieczysław Weinberg's sonatas for unaccompanied violin on a single CD makes eminently good sense, for the direct ties between the music and the life of this Russian composer become all the more vivid. 'Many of my works', he once said, 'deal with war. Unfortunately, this was not my own choice. It was dictated to me by my fate, by the tragic fate of my relatives. I view it as my moral obligation to write about war, about the horrors that humankind suffered in our century.'

Weinberg was born in 1919 in Warsaw, where his Jewish family had moved from Moldavia in 1903. His father worked in Warsaw as a theatre musician, but became unemployed when the theatre shut down in the early 1930s. By the age of 12 the boy was already enrolled at Warsaw Conservatory. But just as he was about to launch a brilliant career as a pianist, the Second World War broke out. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939 he fled to the Soviet Union while his family remained behind ... and perished. Then, when German troops marched into the Soviet Union in June 1941, he fled from Minsk to Tashkent. Far removed from the centres of culture, he nevertheless found employment as a vocal coach at the opera. His potential as a composer was also recognised, even reaching the ears of Dmitri Shostakovich. A feeling of mutual trust arose between the two men that would last until Shostakovich's death in 1975.

Weinberg's First Violin Sonata dates from 1964. Though the material deprivations he had suffered gave way to a certain consolidation and security, this period can hardly be called happy. Memories of the key events in his life continually resurfaced, and his isolation and the lack of public recognition for his music remained practically unchanged. Weinberg responded in his own way – with sounds that wind like shrill screams into moments of glittering frenzy, only to be followed by churning turmoil, piercing gyrations, subliminal upsurges and plunges. How different the second movement, with its bleak melodies, its solemn stolidity and its despondence, seemingly devoid of hope. Yet both spheres inextricably intertwine in Weinberg's music: notwithstanding its great technical demands and structural rigour, it never denies its deep seated emotionalism. Viewed in this light, his works turn into mirror reflections of his psyche as programmatic mood swings merge with biographical influences and intricate musical logic.

In 1967, one year before completing his now famous opera The Passenger, Weinberg returned to the solo sonata. Rivalling and even surpassing its predecessor in complexity, Sonata no. 2 subtly projects the moods and feelings of the opera onto the solo genre. Both works, the opera and the sonata, are related in their uncompromising character and expressive force, their duality of tenderness and severity.

Twelve years later, in 1979, Weinberg composed his third and final sonata for unaccompanied violin. Written in a single extended movement, it evokes a stream of opposing feelings and emotions as oppressive as they are enchanting, offering listeners not a moment’s peace or respite on their 'journey' through brittle worlds of sound. In Renate Eggebrecht's performance, it also abounds in pure timbral delights. In the context of Weinberg's three solo sonatas the extra piece on the CD, Alfred Schnittke's Fugue for unaccompanied violin, sounds like a brief but illuminating lagniappe.

Egbert Hiller




 
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Renate Eggebrecht plays the 3 sonatas by Mieczyslaw Weinberg and the fugue of the 18-year-old Alfred Schnittke
Renate Eggebrecht
Mieczyslaw Weinberg
Alfred Schnittke