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Weinberg: Sonatas for Solo Violin Nos 1-3

Gidon Kremer (violin) (ECM)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Sonatas for Solo Violin Nos 1-3
Gidon Kremer (violin)
ECM 485 6943   62:41 mins


Weinberg’s three sonatas for unaccompanied violin make for some pretty uncompromising listening. The sequence of jagged dissonant double stops that opens the First Sonata of 1964 sets a mood of unbridled anger and aggression which surfaces from time to time throughout the rest of these works.  Linus Roth, who has made an excellent recording of this music for Challenge Classics, cites such moments as suggesting that the violin is ‘being drawn up against its grain, much like an unwilling cat against the lie of its fur.’

But Weinberg explores a much wider palette of emotions than such a remark would suggest. Following the blistering opening movement, we get a warmly tender Andante and a gently playful Allegretto before the dark clouds re-emerge with an intense and deeply felt Lento and a relentless moto perpetuo Finale.

Likewise, the Second Sonata, which was written three years later, covers a tremendous amount of ground in its seven short and succinctly argued movements. Yet perhaps the toughest nut of all is the Third Sonata composed in the late 1970s and conceived in an extended, unbroken and emotionally intense one-movement structure.

Gidon Kremer’s marvellous recording of the Third Sonata for ECM resurfaces here alongside its newly engineered companions which needless to say receive strongly committed and viscerally exciting performances. Even for Weinberg aficionados, it’s probably advisable, however, to hear these thorny works separately to maximise their impact. Alternatively, Roth cleverly lightens the mood in his recording by interspersing an arrangement for violin and piano of one of Shostakovich’s Three Fantastic Dances between each Sonata.

Erik Levi

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