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Steve Holtje
Culture Catch, January 2013

Best New Classical Albums of 2012: #14

Vol. 2[’s]…works [are] mostly weightier and more mature, the exception being the Sonatina…Even though slight in its early form, it is not insubstantial. In the outer movements, its harmonic and rhythmic shifts within its minor key give it a shadowed mien, while in the Adagietto lugubre middle movement, with its trudging counterpoint, the shadows lengthen. The 22-minute Partita is in ten movements that culminate in a Canon finale, altogether a larger and more serious work than its Baroque models yet not unmindful of its origins. Both these works are recorded here for the first time, and both deserve to be taken up by other pianists. The mighty Sonata No. 4…With three Allegros and an Adagio…is a restless work, yet finely proportioned. © 2013 Culture Catch




Lee Passarella
Audiophile Audition, December 2012

As with the rest of Weinberg’s oeuvre, recordings of his piano music are a recent phenomenon. So the welcome series of the composer’s complete piano music from Grand Piano enters a field mostly barren of competition. As far as I can tell, the three works on the present recording aren’t currently available otherwise…

…in the Fourth Sonata, the first movement [is] wistful…The slow movement…is thoroughly serene but reflective in nature. As with the Sonatina, the Allegro finale has the most folk-musical references: it’s angular, somewhat spiky, driven in spots, but manages to return to the wistful melancholy of the opening movement. From an emotional standpoint, it seems to be the most sustained work on the program and is certainly the finest.

Pianist Allison Franzetti is alert throughout to the mood swings that Weinberg’s music is subject to and plays with both rhythmic agility and clarity and real care as to tone production. This is a very fine playing indeed. Excellent piano sound as well. Recommended as another important milestone on the road to redefining Weinberg’s status among modern composers. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review




Steve Arloff
MusicWeb International, August 2012

What it was that sparked the interest in Mieczysław Weinberg in recent years I have no idea but am thrilled that it has happened.

…when it comes to sheer musicality Weinberg is up there with the great composers of the last century. For many he would be a newcomer to such status but listen to the discs that have emerged in recent years and it shouldn’t be difficult to decide that he deserves such an accolade.

The first work on this disc, and one of the two world premières, is his Partita, Op.54 written in late 1953. This is in ten parts, lasting over twenty-two minutes. It is a monumental work of wonderfully contrasting movements, each one of which is an individual little masterpiece. The first five of these are gentle and reflective while the remainder are big-boned, even explosive at times. The whole work makes a huge impression. The opening Prelude is a wistful little tune which makes its mark despite a length of under a minute; the phrase ‘small but perfectly formed’ comes to mind. Each component embodies memorable elements that instantly enter one’s audio memory bank; at least that’s how it is with me. Listen to the March that marks the divide between the two sections with its ominous, even menacing, sound then try to imagine you will not remember it when next you hear it. I for one cannot believe I won’t experience an instant recognition however long a gap in time it is between hearings. I can only repeat the same sentiment when it comes to the other two works; they are outstanding memorable pieces that sparkle with a pianistic brilliance that makes you shake your head in wonder at a truly affecting experience. As the booklet notes by David Fanning state the prevailing expectation for Soviet composers at the time was to make music accessible “to the masses” and to incorporate folk elements into their music which references people would recognise and to which they would relate. This Weinberg and others did, but I believe it was second nature for them to do so, irrespective of any encouragement or feelings of coercion.

The short Sonatina and the second of the world premières here recorded certainly adheres to this and opens with a delightful waltz-like theme again echoing with similarities to piano works by Shostakovich to whom it is dedicated. As much as anything else, however, Weinberg incorporates Jewish folk melodies into much of his music. This is something Shostakovich also often did, though through admiration of Jewish folk culture and an identification with their plight rather than any inherited experience. Such melodies open the Piano Sonata No.4 and feature throughout its length.

I don’t feel motivated to try further to dissect the music on this disc but I do feel compelled to encourage people to listen for they will, I’m convinced, be bowled over by such powerful piano works. I’d not heard the name of Allison Brewster Franzetti before…her faultless technique has enabled her to be a persuasive advocate of this endlessly fascinating and powerfully stated music by a composer whose works are emerging to take their rightful place in the annals of great piano works of the 20th century. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Craig Zeichner
Ariama.com, August 2012

The first half of the ten-movement Partita, Op. 54 from 1953 offers some fairly typical writing (for the time), a style Weinberg scholar David Fanning calls “non-conflictual” music. The first half’s powerful Chorale, acerbic Serenade and stately Sarabande (based on a theme from Shostakovich’s Second Piano Sonata) probably wouldn’t give offense to the self-styled Soviet politburo tastemakers. But the brutal March that opens the second half puts us in a different place and it’s probably the idiosyncrasies of the latter part of the Partita that prevented it from being published. After the grinding March a tender Aria provides respite, but a relentless Ostinato, frenetic Etude and bold Canon raise the intensity of this very compelling work. The Sonatina, Op. 49 is lyrical and compact in form, just the kind of work for students or young people. The four-movement Sonata No. 4 in B minor, Op. 56 is an excellent work. Dedicated to Emil Gilels, the Sonata is a study of shifting moods, abundant melodies and rhythmic vitality. I have no idea why this isn’t performed more often.

As she proved on her first Weinberg album, Allison Brewster Franzetti is a gifted pianist who thoughtfully mines all the complexities of this composer. There’s tenderness, humor, melancholy and terror in Weinberg’s music and Franzetti brings all of it to the fore. There’s some virtuoso writing here too, like the thorny Ostinato and whirlwind Etude of the Partita where Franzetti’s impeccable technique brilliantly serves the music. She communicates the jittery angst of the first movement Allegro perfectly, and smartly shapes the complex second movement without sacrificing rhythmic momentum. Franzetti sings beautifully through her Steinway in the Adagio, one of those deeply personal and highly melodic arias that appears in so much Soviet music of this era. © 2012 Ariama.com



Infodad.com, July 2012

Maturity is one thing that Allison Brewster Franzetti brings in abundance to her performances of the piano music of Mieczysław Weinberg. Franzetti continues to make a strong and effective case for Weinberg’s piano music, although in fact the composer, who lived from 1919 to 1996, was better known for his orchestral works…Franzetti’s series should lead to a closer consideration of Weinberg as a piano composer as well. © 2012 Infodad.com Read complete review



Lawson Taitte
The Dallas Morning News, June 2012

This second volume of the series dedicated to Polish-Russian composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg includes two world premieres and some very fine music indeed.

All three works here share that soulful melancholy that is one of Weinberg’s hallmarks. If you want to hear how a brave and gentle soul stands up to adversity, give them a listen.

Allison Brewster Franzetti plays the pieces superbly, underlining their strength without taking them over the top. © 2012 The Dallas Morning News Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2012

The more we are discovering of the Polish-born Mieczyslaw Weinberg, the more he becomes a highly interesting enigma. This is the second disc of his complete piano music, the first release reviewed in April of this year when I referred at length to his rather unfortunate life story. He had started out his professional career as a concert pianist, later adding a substantial portfolio of works for the instrument in a large catalogue of compositions in every genre. Only a copyist score survives of the Partita for Piano from 1953, by which time he had fallen foul of the Communist authorities, is certainly curious and totally unbalanced, the first five of its ten movements being intimate and uneventful, their generally quiet disposition shattered in the often dramatic following five movements. If the earlier ones have their roots embedded in 19th century traditions, we move to the late 20th century for the hard-hitting March, the final Canon almost a pastiche of Shostakovich in his most acerbic mood. These latter movements demand a big and formidable technique from the soloist. The Piano Sonatina was completed in 1951 and was in a style whose easily accessible content was within the dictates of the regime. He did later revise it and upgraded it to a Sonata—the results contained in the previous disc. It lasts only seven minutes and contrasts with the extended Fourth Sonata from 1955. Composed for Emil Gilels, it is difficult but never flamboyant, it’s style owing much of Shostakovich, but avoids becoming a clone, and though tonal, it does not avoid some unexpected harmonies. I played it several times to come to terms with it. The American pianist, Allison Brewster Franzetti, is a persuasive advocate, the early movements of the Partita particularly enjoyable. The piano is very bright in the upper octaves, while the overall sound quality is attractive. © 2012 David’s Review Corner






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