Wartime Consolations

Performed by Linus Roth, José Gallardo and the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn conducted by Ruben Gazarian

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Hartmann,Shostakovich,Weinberg
LABELS: Challenge Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Wartime Consolations
WORKS: Violin works by Hartmann, Weinberg and Shostakovich
PERFORMER: Linus Roth (violin), José Gallardo (piano); Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn/Ruben Gazarian
CATALOGUE NO: CC 72680 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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All right, so these aren’t all ‘wartime’ works: the two Weinberg pieces were composed in 1948. But as this was the year when the First Soviet Composers’ Union Congress took it upon itself to denounce ‘cosmopolitanism’ – ie Jewishness – in music, any notion of peace from Weinberg’s perspective must have looked partial, to say the least. Several of the ‘Moldavian’ themes in the Rhapsody, Op. 47 No. 3, are obviously Jewish in provenance, but Weinberg wisely decided not to make an issue of that. It is energetic and very enjoyable, but the more delicate Concertino steals the show in Linus Roth’s elegant and tender performance. The opening melody is a lyrical gift from God – and there aren’t many of those in 1940s classical music.

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Hartmann’s Concerto funèbre, begun just as the Nazi war machine was cranking itself into gear, is a masterpiece, with moments of dignity and exquisite sadness amongst the frenzy and violence. Roth and Ruben Gazarian make more of the flickers of hope than any previous performance I’ve heard, but the ending still feels poised on an existential knife-edge. A couple of important solo details are swamped; otherwise the recording sounds powerfully immediate. As for Shostakovich’s unfinished Violin Sonata, begun just after the fall of Berlin in 1945, for me this has the feeling of a miniature that got out of hand then lost its sense of direction, while the second theme sounds like a preliminary sketch for the equivalent theme in the first movement of the Tenth Symphony. It’s played with winning conviction, though, and recorded well if slightly drily. Stephen Johnson