It is rather striking that I have never mentioned the composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg. He was a pupil of Dmitry Shostakovitch. I love Shostakovich’s music. And so far I ignored Weinberg. My first encounter with this composer was, let’s say, unfruitful. It was too early. Now it seems to me that it is almost too late.
A man has fallen in love. A man is tormented by the death of his oldest friend. A man discovers the reality – i.e. the terrorizing power – of the Soviet Union. A man is torn between the wish to survive and the desire for free artistic expression. A man is looking in awe at the tremendous cost of war – in terms of human lives. A man wonders about the kind of world he is living in. He feels his destiny and he feels the infinite weight of his destiny on his shoulders. A man conceives three piano sonatas at a time and finishes one by one over a time span of five years, one more elaborate and impressive than the other. Sergei Prokofiev’s War Sonatas are not only some of the most remarkable pieces the composer has ever written, they are also a landmark in classical music.
When I started this blog back in 2015, I had a certain idea about who my favourite composers were. After having discussed more than 500 different pieces of music and after having discovered dozens of composers previously unknown to me, it has become increasingly difficult to come up with a list of composers I prefer over others. A few however have struck me from the first moment on. Once I started to listen to such a piece – wham! Not shock and awe, rather awe and delight. Those few composers never let me down. Nikolai Medtner is one of them. Today’s post is about a work for piano and violin, the Sonata Epica No. 3 in E Minor, op. 57, recorded by Hamish Milne (piano) and Manoug Parikian (violin).
The quartet starts with an element of pain, a nervous anxiety. But Dmitry Shostakovich quickly introduces a balancing element, a comforting melody, trying to cover the repetitive pattern in a struggle for acoustic supremacy – in vain. Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major (Op. 92) is one more example of the composer’s amazing talent to express emotions with maximal clarity in a few, essential bars.