Mieczyslaw Weinberg Sonatas for Cello and Piano

The more of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s music I hear, the more complex he becomes. This release features his two sonatas for cello and piano. Each provides a snapshot of his evolving style.

Sonata No. 1, Op. 21 was completed in 1945. The war was ending, and Stalin’s regime was just warming up. The sonata’s a jaunty, pointillistic work. Weinberg seems to flirt with atonality, without stepping over the edge. Weinberg’s music is often compared to Shostakovich’s. I didn’t really hear it in this sonata. Rather, the music reminded me more of early Prokofiev.

By 1960, the Soviet Union was a much different place. Weinberg had survived several brushes with the authorities. He learned to bury his emotions deep, giving his music an ideologically acceptable veneer. Sonata No. 2, Op. 63 was composed for Mstislav Rostropovich. He premiered the work, with Weinberg at the piano.

It’s a technically challenging work although it stays within the bounds of tonality. Rostropovich and Weinberg may have given the definitive performance of this sonata, but Wojciech Fudala and Michal Rot still have plenty to say. They get to the anguished heart of the music, creating an interpretation of exceptional beauty and pathos.

Fudala plays with a warm, sonorous sound. He’s especially effective in turning the slow passages into musical soliloquies — which I think was Weinberg’s intent.

The album also includes two solo works. Fulala performs the Sonata for Solo Cello, No. 1, Op. 72. It’s a short work (also written for Rostropovich), but a challenging one. Michael Rot plays the Berceuse Op. 1. Weinberg wrote it when he was 16. It’s a sunny, simple, and lovely way to end the album.

In the liner notes, the musicians state: “We strongly believe that the artistic value of this repertoire is worth disseminating.” I think they’ve made their case.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Sonatas for Cello and Piano
Wojciech Fudala, cello; Michal Rot, piano
DUX 1545

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