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Robert R. Reilly
Catholic News Agency, October 2011

These are the world premiere recordings, originally issued on the Olympia label, of Sonatas Nos. 2, 3, and 4. The touchstone for sonatas for solo cello is obviously Bach’s work in the genre. Weinberg calls upon that tradition and enriches it. It would be safe to consider Feigelson’s performances as definitive.

David W Moore
American Record Guide, July 2011

Feigelson is a fine player, and his is the only recording so far of the first version of Sonata 2 and either version of 4…well played and this is music that can support different interpretations.

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

Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, May 2011

Mieczysław Weinberg’s solo cello sonatas are considerably more interesting than his preludes for the same instrument, which I reviewed here a few months ago. They aren’t a direct response to Bach, but very much Weinberg himself, a voice not far removed from Shostakovich’s, but with occasional added flavors of Jewish melody and jazz.

These sonatas are all very much of their composer: recognizably Soviet, emotionally quite austere, harmonically bittersweet. But they are written fluently and there are terrific moments: the transition from slow movement to impassioned finale in Sonata No 2, the uncommonly charming allegretto in No 3, the ethereal muted presto of the same sonata, and the otherworldly original andante to No 4, in which cellist Josef Feigelson (who also wrote the excellent notes) points out traces of Hindemith.

On the other hand, this music won’t have mass appeal. The occasional grayness of the writing—we don’t quite have Shostakovich’s emotional range here—and the fact that Weinberg’s style appears not to have changed very much between 1964 and 1986 means that this is the kind of disc you only put on the stereo when you’re in a very specific mood, or if you’re a very specific listener. That isn’t true of Weinberg’s stunning cello concerto, a rich, generous masterwork which works through a series of lush tunes in one broad emotional circle, and I think that my slight bitterness here may be due to the fact that I was expecting something along those lines and didn’t get it.

Josef Feigelson recorded this disc, and its companion, as a compendium of Weinberg’s complete cello music in the 1990s, very shortly after the composer’s death—learning the sonatas from the original manuscripts. Certainly his playing here is not to be faulted, and, as was true of the first volume, a more impassioned advocate of the music is hard to imagine. The sound is not too close, the cello tone full and darkly rich. Weinberg’s masterwork for the instrument remains the astonishing Cello Concerto, but these sonatas are very good in their way too. If you’ve been waiting for moody Soviet solo cello work, your ship has come in.

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, March 2011

Every now and then a CD comes along that blows your socks off. Enter cellist Josef Feigelson with his stunning CD of the Complete Music for Solo Cello Volume 2 by the Polish/Soviet composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, a colleague and friend of Shostakovich who died in 1996. Previously available on the Olympia label, these World Premiere Recordings of the Sonatas for Solo Cello Nos. 2, 3 & 4 (plus the original—and tougher—first movement for the latter) were recorded in New York in November 1997. Feigelson played them from the manuscripts, which he acquired from the composer’s widow in Moscow, having recorded Sonata No. 1 along with the 24 Cello Preludes in 1996. (Those recordings are now available on Naxos 8.572280) If you are even remotely interested in music for unaccompanied cello then this CD is an absolute “must” and at the low Naxos price it’s a no-brainer. Buy it. Play it. And hang on to your socks.

Mike D. Brownell, March 2011

Born in Poland but living most of his life in Russia, composer Mieczysław Weinberg was as prolific and popular a composer as his contemporaries Shostakovich and Prokofiev. While many Russian artists were revolting against the Soviet regime or leaving the country all together, Weinberg remained with little fanfare. His political decisions may have been in part responsible for the neglect his music has suffered, though many of his works are now being brought to the attention of appreciative listeners. This Naxos album is a reissue of an Olympia CD, the second volume devoted to Weinberg’s works for solo cello. After completing the first volume, cellist Josef Feigelson contacted Weinberg’s widow and successfully revived the three additional solo sonatas heard on this volume and was instrumental in getting them published. The three later sonatas are more technically demanding than the earlier sonata and 24 Preludes, but are still quite musically satisfying. Weinberg’s writing is reminiscent of Kodály in his use of folk materials, and Britten in his use of motivic development and broad harmonic palette. Feigelson’s playing is technically precise and confident, with almost flawless intonation. His sound is clear and focused and he incorporates a pleasing array of tonal colors and dynamic contrast. Most importantly, perhaps, Feigelson has a keen, intimate understanding of Weinberg’s musical intentions and clearly translates this to his listeners, making us all want to hear more of the almost-forgotten Weinberg.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2011

Last month I wrote enthusiastically of the first disc in Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s complete Solo Cello Music, this completion of his unaccompanied sonatas being of enormous importance. My previous review gave details of a life that was blighted by personal loss of friends and family in the Second World War, and his own trials and tribulations at the hands of the Soviet regime. That we are now increasingly ‘discovering’ one of the most gifted 20th century composers comes from the efforts of a few champions, the cellist, Josef Feigelson, playing an important role. Different in almost every respect to Shostakovich, whom he much admired, his works must be accepted with the same degree of esteem. The great cellist, Rostropovich, went further in describing them as the modern equivalent to Bach’s works for unaccompanied cello. If that is a big statement, he was not overstating the quality of the four sonatas. The Second was dedicated to the legendary cellist of the Borodin String Quartet, Valentin Berlinsky, and if Weinberg still felt bitterness in 1965, he did not express it in Shostakovich’s overtly graphic outbursts. The Third opens with the meandering music of someone lost in an unforgiving environment; the neurotic scherzo coming close to Prokofiev; the slow movement seeming to express a hard won peace, while its final Presto is far from happy. The Fourth was a further work for Berlinsky, a score in two movements enlarged to three at the dedicatee’s wish. The fiendishly difficult first movement—almost twice as long as the revised one—is here added as an appendage. Feigelson’s playing is awesome both technically and in its intensity. All were world premiere recordings from 1997 when they were briefly available on the Olympic label. A disc everyone interested in 20th century music must possess.

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