MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
The Complete Music for Violin and Piano - volume 1
Violin Sonata No. 1 (1920) [25.56]
Abodah (1929) [5.28]
Suite No. 1 for solo violin (1958) [11.15]
Suite Hébraïque (1951) [10.41]
The Weilerstein Duo
rec. Eastman School of Music, 2-3 April, 10-12 Aug 1985. DDD

BUY NOW AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)

The Complete Music for Violin and Piano - volume 2
Violin Sonata No. 2 Poème Mystique (1924) [20.05]
Baal Shem (1923) [11.47]
Suite No. 2 for solo violin (1958) [11.15]
Nuit Exotique (1925) [7.41]
The Weilerstein Duo
rec. Eastman School of Music, 2-3 April, 10-12 Aug 1985. DDD

BUY NOW AmazonUK   AmazonUS

fax: 212.730.8316

While Laurel have done a great deal for Bloch we must not overlook the exhaustive work of Arabesque in documenting his chamber music. This has been done with thoroughness and with flair. Their discs are too easy to overlook largely because they have been in the catalogue for so long and their profile has fallen.

Arabesque's Bloch family are worth listing as a reminder of its breadth of coverage:-
Music for violin and piano: Vol. 1 (Weilerstein Duo) Z6605
Music for violin and piano: Vol. 2 (Weilerstein Duo) Z6606
String Quartet No. 1 Portland Quartet Z6543
String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 Portland Quartet Z6626
String Quartets Nos. 4 and 5 Portland Quartet Z6627
Piano Quintets No. 1 and 2, Paul Posnak (piano) Portland Quartet Z6618

Violin Sonata No. 1: After the ruthlessly threatening manichean fury the second movement rises from an impressionistic haze to impassioned heights only to subside into the same lapping haze. In the final movement, acidly searing singing and splenetic, the listener is not short-changed in the currency of anger.

Abodah, with all its shadow-cast mid-Eastern sway, was written for the seven year old Yehudi Menuhin. Into it Bloch focused his prayerful wonder at Menuhin's extraordinary God-given talent. Menuhin was of course to record the Violin Concerto in years to come. Abodah signifies God's worship. This reverential piece was the first work ever dedicated to Menuhin.

The Suite No. 1 is in five sections played without break. It was written to a Menuhin commission after Yehudi and Diana had braved a six hour journey to visit the ailing 78 year old composer. This is music that, for the most part, manages to cast off the patterned academicism often attaching to such solo efforts. The Bachian tribute is there [6.20] but spliced with Bloch's roving Hebraic tendency.

The Suite Hébraïque is in three movements. The Rhapsody is the longest movement; almost as long as the Processional and Affirmation put together. The Rhapsody is pensive, garrulous, tonal, looking both eastwards and westwards and employing Hassidic melisma. The Processional suggests a brisk-paced cortege. It certainly does not linger. Affirmation has that same middle-eastern swaying melisma we find in Rhapsody. It finishes with a Pulcinella-esque valedictory gesture.

The second volume starts with the 20 minute Poème Mystique. This stands somewhere between Griffes, Scriabin, Ravel and, disconcertingly, Michael Tippett's extraordinarily elaborate tracery in the Corelli Fantasia. The piano and violin are equal partners in this. The contrast between the hell-raising spleen of the First Sonata and the predominant serenity in this work is stark. Most of the work was composed in Santa Fe. The two players touch in the impressionistic and mystical textures and colours with great sensitivity. The way is made clear for one of Bloch’s lovely all-conquering melodies taken by the violin at 11.02. This is something to treasure. The work ends in shudderingly positive excitement and clamantly rapturous singing tone.

Baal Shem is well known not least for Nigun that display piece taken up by many including Heifetz. The movements are Vidui (Contrition), Nigun (Improvisation); Simchas Torah (Rejoicing). Vidui I can best describe as a meditation shaken by passionate storms, while Nigun is tempestuous and full of virtuosic caprice. Listen to the attack of the harp figuration for the piano at 2.03. The Simchas Torah is outgoing and optimistic with the violin singing its considerable heart out. Here, as elsewhere in these two discs, the Weilersteins reveal very considerable strengths. The most convincing playing yet and the most triumphant.

The Second Suite for solo violin is changeable and charged with volatility even if the academic profile raises its head here, more so than in No 1. It is a work that holds the interest but not the affection. Contrast this with Nuit Exotique, a work dedicated to Joseph Szigeti, a soloist who, along with Menuhin, also played the Bloch Violin Concerto. This may perhaps be bracketed with works such as Szymanowski's Fontane d'Arethuse or the Song of Roxanne. It has that same Sicilian-Arabic mystical mien that suffuses the Polish composer's Krol Roger.
The recording is strong and clear and the Weilerstein Duo fully engage with the music even though some of these pieces must have been learnt specially for this project without the benefit of live concert performance.
As with the quartets discs the annotation is of a high standard.
To the best of my knowledge no other company has achieved such thorough coverage on CD and while you may well prefer individual works in isolated collections on other labels the present performances and recordings are of the very highest standard.

Rob Barnett

Error processing SSI file

Return to Index

Error processing SSI file