WEINBERG Solo Violin Sonatas SHOSTAKOVICH 3 Fantastic Dances
The sonata for solo string instrument is a genre Weinberg made more or less his own in the Soviet Union, especially after Shostakovich’s death. There are three for violin, four each for viola and cello and one for double bass, most of them fearsomely difficult, yet also entirely serious, sometimes to the point of symphonic, in conception.
Complementing his fine recordings of the violin-and-piano and violin concertante works, Linus Roth offers controlled and superbly prepared accounts. The five-movement First Sonata is dauntingly large-scale and technically knotty, especially in its outer movements. Here Roth is understandably rather circumspect in the opening quadruple-stopped chords (was Weinberg perhaps thinking of the cadenzas in the Berg Concerto?). But so too is Yuri Kalnits, another doughty and dedicated Weinberg exponent. Kalnits is definitely the braver in the fourth movement, where Roth makes more drastic serious concessions to tempo in order to negotiate the false harmonics.
The Second Sonata is a concatenation of seven studies, generally more genial in tone than than the First. Here Roth is the easier on the ear, if only because Kalnits’s Toccata recording is marred by background traffic noise. In the Third Sonata Kremer is hors concours for range of colour and dynamic and sheer soloistic presence – a reminder that these works were written with some of the titans of the Soviet violin-playing tradition in mind. But Roth is also a first-rate exponent, and his performances of Harry Glickman’s arrangements of Shostakovich’s Three Fantastic Dances – sounding a good deal more leisurely than the piano originals – are also well worth hearing.