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David W Moore
American Record Guide, July 2010

…Yablonsky’s…sounds warm and puts the music across well. At any rate, this is a good buy.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Arthur S. Leonard
Leonard Link, May 2010

…Weinberg…music is gorgeous, and is undergoing a substantial revival of interest in the west…Yablonsky…cello playing here is passionate.

Robert R. Reilly, May 2010

To sample how wonderful Weinberg’s chamber music is, go to the new Naxos disc featuring cellist Dmitry Yablonsky and pianist Hsin-Ni Liu (Naxos 8.570333) in the Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2, and Solo Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 and 3. Two of these four works were written for Mstislav Rostropovich, who compared Weinberg’s four Sonatas for Solo Cello with the Cello Suites of Bach. The melancholy First Cello Sonata is redolent of Shostakovich and of comparable quality. It is riveting and deeply moving. Weinberg sings his soul out in the solo cello pieces, which deserve Rostropovich’s accolade. The third movement Allegro of the First Solo Cello Sonata is so viscerally engaging that my fifteen-year-old son was remarking how good it was. Anyone who cares about Russian/Polish music in the 20th century—or simply about great chamber music—should grab this bargain CD.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, May 2010

The program begins with the earlier of his two sonatas for cello and piano. Written in 1945, it’s in two movements, the first of which is lyrically wistful. There’s a twitchy insistency about most of the finale that’s reminiscent of Shostakovich. This is tempered with a demanding cadenza for the cello, and a subdued introspective ending.

Composed for Rostropovich in 1959, the renowned cellist certainly got his money’s worth with the three-movement second sonata. An exceptional showpiece, the beginning moderato and andante are effectively legato arias that show off the cello’s proclivity to sound like the human voice. The final allegro is characterized by more Shostakovich-like figurations, and gives both performers a chance to strut their stuff.

The odd-numbered of Weinberg’s four unaccompanied cello sonatas are next. They too were for Rostropovich, who apparently considered them a major contribution to the genre, ranking with J.S. Bach’s (1685–1750) six cello suites (BWV 1007–1012). The three-movement first sonata (1960) is made up of a soaring adagio, jolly gigue-like central section, and snarling finale.

In four movements, the third sonata (1971) is a much more substantial undertaking that’s not for beginners! A singing allegro with some colorful coloratura touches comes first, followed by a rhythmically angular allegretto, and melodically sinuous lento. It’s easy to imagine the smell of smoldering horsehair in the frenetic bravura finale.

Dmitry Yablonsky has been praised in these pages on several occasions in his capacity as a conductor. But he began his career as a cellist, and must be counted among today’s best as anyone hearing this disc will discover. He’s accompanied in the first two sonatas by pianist Hsin-Ni Liu, who makes an equally positive impression. She would have made an even greater one had she played with a little more expression. Both artists have technique to burn, but more importantly an affinity for these demanding pieces.

The recordings, which were made in 2007–08 at Studio 1 of the Russian State TV & Radio Company, are excellent. With a soundstage appropriate to these diminutive forces, the cello tone is totally natural, and the piano sound well-rounded. While the piano is placed a tad left of center in the two accompanied sonatas, the cello remains somewhat right of center in all four. While a case could be made for having Mr. Yablonsky center stage for the solo sonatas, the overall sound remains demonstration quality regardless of his location. Besides, those with balance controls can correct accordingly.

WRUV Reviews, April 2010

Weinberg was a modernist composer during a period when being a modernist, Jewish composer was unwelcome. The Nazis and Soviets necessitated his translocations from Poland, Minsk, Tashkent and Moscow. Through political connections, friendships and luck, Weinberg was able to continue composing and survive. Rostropovich considered these solo cello sonatas as important as those of Bach. Edgy, lyrical, quiet and expressive.

Jim Leonard, April 2010

…Yablonsky turns in spectacular performances of tremendous power and obvious commitment, as does pianist Hsin-Ni Liu in the two accompanied sonatas. Listeners who do not already know Shostakovich and Prokofiev’s sonatas should seek them out, but listeners who already do, and who want more of the same but different, are likely to enjoy this disc…

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2010

Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s younger years were tossed about by political events and the Second World War, eventually emerging as a major voice in Russian music in the second half of the 20th century. He was born in Warsaw in 1919 and musically educated there, but was hastily moved when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. First arriving in Minsk, but having to move to Tashkent when the German’s invaded Russia, it was in the years following the end of hostilities that he found himself used as a political pawn, his music praised by those who wanted to disparaged Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Yet in reality he trod much the same path as his illustrious colleagues. It was to be the great Russian cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich, who likened in importance his unaccompanied cello sonatas to the suites of J.S. Bach. Probably an exaggerated claim, though they do stand next to Kodály’s sonata as outstanding 20th century compositions in the genre. They are not outgoing showpieces, but are often very challenging to the performer, and for the conservative listener there are plenty of musical motifs to hook you into both sonatas. They date from 1960 and 1971 respectively, the final Presto of the Third being a whirlwind of activity. Offering fewer immediate attractions the First Sonata for cello and piano was an early score from 1945, its two unsmiling movements coming to life in the second movement cadenza where the music picks up in tempo for a fast final section. It was a further fourteen years before he wrote the Second, this time in three conventional movements. Very serious in content, it eventually opens up in the lively finale. Dmitry Yablonsky sweeps aside difficulties in a recording that is the finest I have heard from him. He has a highly capable pianist in Hsin-Ni Liu, and the excellent engineering has added much to a highly recommended release.

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