- Quintet for piano & strings in G minor, Op. 57
- Piano Quintet, Op. 18
The music of Soviet Russia has reams to tell of the role of art in a society that is fundamentally hostile to it, and the more that's recorded the deeper the entire repertoire seems to be. The two chamber works on this album were composed five years apart during World War II, and even if only one is much played, both are masterpieces. The real news here is the "Piano Quintet, Op. 18," of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, composed in 1945 after the young composer had fled the Nazis from Poland to Minsk, Tashkent, and finally Moscow. He became a protégé of Shostakovich, in the literal sense of the word indicating protection, but he was never Shostakovich's student, and his works have a very different flavor from those of the older master. Shostakovich's "Piano Quintet, Op. 57," of 1940, with broad dramatic gestures that endeared the music to Soviet cultural commissars even if it lacked the requisite patriotic content, is effectively rendered here, but the real triumph of the Szymanowski Quartet and especially of German pianist Matthias Kirschnereit comes in the Weinberg, where a certain chilly voice of experience extraordinary in one so young comes through. Sample the Presto and the entirely distinctive passage at the beginning of the Allegro agitato finale, where Kirschnereit catches a nervous, angry treatment of folkish materials that Shostakovich never approached. The Weinberg is a denser, less immediately appealing work than the Shostakovich quintet, but it absolutely deserves a place on concert stages, and this recording, with excellent sound, is a real landmark. Notes are in German and English.