Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Weinberg, Complete Piano Works, Allison Brewster Franzetti, 4-CDs

The discovery that the music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg is exceptionally good across the board is one of the revelations of the last decade. It is true of the chamber music as much as the symphonies. That Prokofiev and Shostakovich worked alongside another master composer that we have not until recently had much of a chance to hear is a happy surprise.

Of course Weinberg grew up in Poland, a Jew, and only adapted Russia as his homeland when WWII put his life in danger. So we can think of him as Jewish, as Polish, and the music has something of that at times. However we choose to think of him, his mature works most certainly put him in the modern Russian composer camp. The music sounds like it belongs there, even if there are deliberate divergences to be heard now and again in the course of the music's unfolding.

Pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti has recorded his Complete Piano Works in four CD-volumes. I covered the Volume 4 program quite favorably last February 27, 2013 on these pages. Now all four volumes are available in a set with slipcase (Grand Piano 698-701) and I have gotten a copy to hear.

It is an enormous amount of music. And I am happy to say it is all very worthy of our era and our ears. There are seven mostly exceptional piano sonatas and a sonatina, a good deal of other interesting pieces such as the partita, and a volume devoted to music for children/beginners that is redolent with the Weinberg touch. Allison Brewster Franzetti does a marvelous job bringing out the Weinberg ethos. She seems made for this music.

Throughout we get a good deal of Weinberg the modernist. He has a way of creating melody and accompaniment that has on the surface a pseudo-conventional veneer, even a folkish quality, then delightfully veers off course with dissonances, "wrong notes" and bitter-sweet, even sarcastic utterances. In that he resembles Prokofiev and Shostakovich but you would after a good immersion never mistake him for them. He is very original, yet there is something all three composers share.

And so I cherish these four volumes, personally. They bring to us a musical world of which we knew little (here in the States, anyway) until now. His piano music is as central as his symphonies. It is a fine thing to be able to hear all of the former, so well played.

An indispensable set!

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