WEINBERG: Viola Sonatas Nos. 1-4 / Viacheslav Dinerchtein, vla / Solo Musica SM310
These are not the first recordings of all four of Weinberg’s Viola Sonatas—they were previously played by Julia Rebekka Adler on a Neos release in 2010, an album which also included a viola transcription of his Clarinet Sonata—but they are clearly the more intense readings. From the very first note of the first sonata, young violist Viacheslav Dinerchtein is locked in to the music in a way that is almost frightening in its intensity.
And what music it is! Unlike the composer’s symphonies, which are rather amorphous in form, these solo sonatas are taut, intense pieces with a stronger rhythmic underpinning, particularly the first of them. This is clearly Weinberg in a very agitated mood. Dinerchtein plays his viola with a very bright, violin-like tone, digging into the jagged rhythms with fiery aplomb. This is surely not an album you’re going to hear on your local classical music radio station; it would disturb the sensibilities of their audience, which prefers relaxed, tonal music played in a relaxed, mushy style. Yet this is surely “music for your heart, mind and spirit,” as such stations are wont to say.
The third-movement “Adagio” in the first sonata is achingly beautiful in the sort of way that only Weinberg could be, without leaning too far in the direction of overt pathos or bathos, and this, too is played superbly by Dinerchtein.
The first movement of the second sonata is quite different from the first, opening with a repeating triplet figure played on different pitches before moving into chorded passages interspersed with variations on that triplet. Dinerchstein handles this beautifully while still injecting great emotion into the music. Yet the score slowly becomes more intense, culminating in the very edgy last movement which calls for some incredibly tricky playing from the soloist, using various techniques, all of which Dinerchtein almost makes sound easy.
The third sonata opens with a rhythm that could be associated with Polish folk music (I know; I’m part Polish), but the harmonic layout is so unusual and bitonal that no Pole would recognize it as such. Again, the music has tremendous energy and verve—almost manic at times as it develops. And it becomes even more intense towards the end before moving into the second movement, which is more relaxed but scarcely an “Andante” or an “Adagio.” It, too, uses strong rhythms, less folk-like but still somewhat syncopated. At about the 2:25 mark, Weinberg alternates a relaxed, chorded theme with fast pizzicato interludes. The third movement consists of whirling sixteenths alternating with strongly-bowed chords. Interestingly, Weinberg places the slow movement fourth in this five-movement sonata, but it is not a beautiful piece in the conventional sense. Rather, it alternates a high-lying, intense lyrical theme with sad-sounding commentary in the viola’s lower range. The fifth and last movement is at a medium tempo, but harmonically quirky and not entirely easy to grasp.
The opening of the fourth sonata is, again, surprisingly lyrical, this time quite tonal in the first section, and Dinerchtein plays it with great tenderness and feeling. The music morphs, however, and becomes more melancholy and harmonically unusual as it progresses through slower, chorded passages. But this is nothing compared to the second movement, where Weinberg alternates bitonal, serrated figures against long bowed notes in the instrument’s lower range, creating a weird effect, particularly when he uses very close chords, before entering a rhythmic sort of tarantella with bitonal, double-time figures. Weinberg develops these contrasting motifs in interesting ways. In the last movement, a long (10-minute), slow “Andante,” Weinberg brings his characteristic sad-but-not-whining emotion into play in long-lined notes that never quite coalesce into a melody, yet keep the listener at attention because it is often close to a melody. Weinberg leisurely continues this mood as the music develops, ending with a loud and emotionally charged passage.
The publicity blurb for this release raves about the booklet, which contains “a special in-depth essay by Weinberg authority David Fanning, rare historical photographs (some never before published), inputs from several notable personalities and an essay by the performer,” but alas, I had no booklet available to download online, only the front and back cover of the album. Perhaps Sono Musica would be kind enough to send me a physical copy of the CDs and booklet, but I’m not holding my breath.
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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