The 21 year old composer’s First Piano Sonata is remarkably forward looking in its dissonance. It opens with strongly dissonant chords before the entry of a quiet theme that is almost atonal in its freedom, before developing into a richer, more complex climax before a quiet close. The allegretto is light and jolly with a slightly manic Shostakovich sound. The andantino is quietly flowing, dissonant melody whilst the allegro molto finale that concludes this work is full of energy. Murray McLachlan is excellent here, always maintaining the flow and line of the music.
Weinberg’s Second Sonata starts with a driven allegro. There is less obvious dissonance in this sonata, more subtlety. The central section, whilst more gentle has a forward drive which never seems to stop. The allegretto, though with a similar momentum, nevertheless does provide some respite after the first movement. The third movement is a gentle adagio, freely flowing across various keys. This is an entrancing movement, somewhat mysterious in its feel and wonderfully played. The vivace finale, a rondo, is again very tonally free, whilst at one point quoting from Haydn, something I hadn’t noticed until reading Per Skans note. There is some formidable playing in this work.
By the three movement Third Sonata there seems to be an established Weinberg style, free flowing, with free use of tonality. The andante tranquillo is certainly such a movement. The dissonance is still there but subsumed into the overall sweep of the movement. There is more formidable playing from Murray McLachlan. In the wrong hands this music could lose the flow, momentum and sense of structure but McLachlan maintains all of this superbly.
The adagio sounds folk music inspired and is picked out slowly, along with a dissonant accompaniment. This is another of Weinberg’s strange slow movement creations. In the moderato con moto, Shostakovich does seem to loom, yet Weinberg manages to enlarge on his theme and brings something new and personal.
The 17 Easy Pieces are a set of charming miniatures lasting between 13 seconds and 2 minutes, which cannot be easy to play. More it is their simple charm that the title must refer to. There are attractive pieces such as the Bach like The Nightingale, a quite beautiful little The Sick Doll, an effective little Melancholy Waltz, The Goldfish that threatens to turn into London Bridge is Falling Down, and the longest piece The Dolls that is quite lovely. You can almost imagine Weinberg sitting at his piano improvising these pieces. McLachlan certainly gives that impression.
Murray McLachlan is ideal in this repertoire, playing with both sensitivity and bravura. These former Olympia recordings are excellent, with excellent piano tone and there are first rate notes by the late Per Skans. These beautifully produced discs are thoroughly recommended.
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