Weinberg: Cello Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Solo Cello Sonata

WORKS: Cello Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Solo Cello Sonata
PERFORMER: Alexander Chaushian (cello), Yevgeny Sudbin (piano)
At his finest the Polish-born Soviet composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996) possessed a considerable strength of musical personality, not to mention an impressive handling of large-scale form and a capacity to write striking melodic ideas. That much has been evident from recent CD releases of his Piano Quintet (by the Borodin Quartet with the composer himself at the piano, recently reissued by Melodiya) and his Piano Trio (by Dmitri Sitkovetsky, David Geringas and Jascha Nemtsov on Hänssler). The First Cello Sonata, composed in 1945 – the same period as these other works – may be less direct in expression, though the quietly ruminative lyricism of the Lento ma non troppo that frames the two-movement work has a haunting quality which grows in appeal on repeated listening. Marginally less convincing to my mind are the first two movements of the Second Cello Sonata of 1959 which seem to meander in places, though Weinberg manages to regain the initiative in the rhythmically charged Finale. The First Solo Sonata, premiered by Rostropovich in 1960, is altogether a stronger piece, the sustained intensity of the opening movement and the vibrancy of the Finale carried off with tremendous aplomb by Alexander Chaushian. In the two Duo Sonatas Yevgeny Sudbin once again confirms his credentials as a superbly incisive musician, bringing a wealth of colour and variety of tone to Weinberg’s somewhat austere piano parts. Together with the equally committed Chaushian, these artists, supported by an excellent recording, make the best possible case for a reappraisal of this undervalued composer.