Weiner: Violin Sonatas


The latest instalment of Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez's ongoing reappraisal of the early 20th-century violin and piano repertoire is this disc of music by Hungarian composer Leo Weiner (1885-1960). In the 1920s, many preferred him to his elder contemporary Bartók, probably because he was identified with post-Romantic safety rather than modernist outrage. In fact, his two Violin Sonatas reveal him to be rather quirky and difficult to pin down. The First sounds as if salon music has been subjected to a process of Brahmsian compression and development. The Second balances moments of lyrical expansiveness with bitter, at times abrasive harmonies. Shaham's pungent, occasionally acidic string tone is perfect for Weiner's mixture of extravagance and cool. Erez's percussive playing emphasises the sparse, pointillistic quality of the piano writing - the product, one suspects, of Weiner being a self-taught pianist. Some of his folk dances are included as a bonus. They're closer in style and spirit to Liszt's Gypsy-inspired Rhapsodies than Bartók's stark folk song arrangements, and done with great elegance and flamboyant ease.


Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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