Classical Music Sentinel

The final Allegro molto of the Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 5 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996) is a hell of a challenge to play, but yet pianist Murray McLachlan captures all of the underlying emotions at its core. While his right hand hammers out the cries of fear, his left hand is pounding out the shouts of dissension. You can almost see the storm troopers advancing in the distance. You can feel the rebellious nature of the young Weinberg coming through. Jump forward only two years to the Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 8 , and you can tell Weinberg has assimilated the “soviet” sound and applied his own voice to it. It’s most readily apparent in the haunting Adagio movement beautifully expressed by McLachlan. And by the time you reach the Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 31 , the composer has mastered the sonata form and can therefore focus on a deeper, more complex musical narrative. Miniature musical caricatures abound in the 17 Easy Pieces, Op. 34 written the same year, most likely as educational material for children and beginners. With titles like A Tin Soldier, Father Frost, and Catch me if you can Weinberg injected a sense of humor and play within these instructive pieces, while making them difficult enough to provide a solid musical foundation. Murray McLachlan clearly identifies and exposes each one’s distinct character.

Over the last 10 to 15 years or so, there has finally been an overdue resurgence of interest in the music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg . His captivating symphonies have been well served in excellent recordings recently, so now it’s reassuring to see the same care being applied to his piano music output. A Weinberg II including his Sonatas 4, 5 and 6 is already expected to be released soon, also with pianist Murray McLachlan at the keyboard. The Russian Piano Music Series of recordings on the Divine Art label has been a pleasure to follow, with one great release after another, and this 9th volume in the series is no exception. It’s proven to be my favorite yet. It may very well set the bar high for future Weinberg interpreters.

—Jean-Yves Duperron