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English National Opera’s recent production of Mieczysłav Weinberg’s opera The Passenger was part of a larger revival of interest in the music of this composer. Often linked with Shostakovich, Weinberg (sometimes spelled ‘Vainberg’) arrived in Belorussia (Minsk) after the Nazi invasion of Poland. The First Sonata dates from his time in Minsk (1940) and is a sparkling crystal of a piece.

The startlingly dissonant opening introduces a solemn and severe work (the recording does not seem entirely at home with the dynamic and registral extremes). The influence of Shostakovich is marked, particularly in the Allegretto second movement, while the ensuing Andantino (perfectly evoked by Franzetti) includes an interlude of mechanical bent that references Prokofiev. The finale holds real power (there is a slight loss of bass definition).

Franzetti’s playing in the Second Sonata is outstanding; layered and clearly the result of much thought. The Adagio plumbs the greatest depths of the disc, ending with tolling bells that lead into the dancing finale.

Three of the works on this disc (the non-sonata pieces) are world premiere recordings: the Lullaby (which would make a lovely encore piece); the Mazurkas, charming works from Weinberg’s boyhood; and the Op 49 revision of an earlier Sonata (a 1977 revision of a 1950/51 piece). The Op 49bis is similarly alluring, notable for the bare expanse of its central Andantino. Franzetti’s Naxos disc of 20th-century piano music has been warmly welcomed by the critical press; this disc is just as successful.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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