WEINBERG Piano Quintet. Cello Sonata No 2. Piano Sonatine
Remarkably, recorded versions of Weinberg’s Piano Quintet are now up around double figures. Maybe not so remarkably, because this is one of his top-drawer pieces and a gift to ensembles looking to expand on the not so many concert-worthy 20th-century examples of its genre.
Jeanne Golan and the young members of the Attacca Quartet offer one of the most spacious accounts, at over 47 minutes, and I can see where they are aiming. Just because the composer himself and almost all others place the emphasis on drive and drama does not mean that there is no scope for taking more time to stop and admire the view. Introducing so much detailed phrasing and shaping into the rhetorical slow movement certainly gives evidence of much thought and preparation. Still, I cannot say it entirely works. The outer movements lack forward impulse and urgency, and the sense of direction in the two slithery scherzos is again too vague. Curiously for a recording made in New York’s Steinway Hall, the piano itself sounds bulky in the bass and fluffy in the treble, while the close balance and dry acoustic add to the sense of congestion.
Just as curiously, the sound picture brightens up considerably for the Sonatine, in which Golan’s silvery touch teases out the subcutaneous strands of klezmer in the first movement and finds an effectively capricious solution to the problem of the oddly truncated finale. The Cello Sonata moves persuasively from searching to trenchancy, earning a place of merit not far behind Chaushian and Sudbin or Weinberg and Alla Vassilieva (Rostropovich’s first pupil and later his assistant at the Moscow Conservatory).