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Hyperion Records

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The Solitary Cedar (1907) by Tivador Csontvary Kosztka (1853-1919)
Csontvary Museum, Pecs, Hungary / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67735
Recording details: June 2008
Jerusalem Music Centre, Israel
Produced by Eric Wen
Engineered by Zvi Hirshler
Release date: July 2009
Total duration: 26 minutes 15 seconds

'Shaham's pungent, occasionally acidic string tone is perfect for Weiner's mixture of extravagance and cool … great elegance and flamboyant ease' (The Guardian)

'Highly enjoyable … full of charm and wit … the playing is exemplary … Shaham and Erez make the best possible case for these pieces, duly wearing hearts on sleeve where appropriate' (International Record Review)

'Hagai Shaham plays with a large, richly Romantic tone and a feeling for the grand gestures in which the music delivers its message and the ethnic matrix from which it emerged. But he also has the virtuosic flair to put across the most flamboyant numbers' (Fanfare, USA)

'The excellent Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham and his accompanist of many years Arnon Erez (together they won the 1990 ARD Competition) have recorded Leo Weiner’s two magnificent early violin sonatas … with such devotion and such a feeling for the sensual glow of this music that, from the very first bar, one is totally transfixed by the art of their musical seduction … Hagai Shaham links a perfect technique with the mesmerizing beauty of his fiery sound; he embodies the ideal Hungarian gipsy-violinist, the highly cultivated Prince Charming who will give it 'his all' to cast a spell on his listeners … nowadays, violinists with such charisma have become very rare and should therefore be especially cherished … the old-fashioned magic of Shaham’s sound' (Stereoplay, Germany)

Violin Sonata No 2 in F sharp minor, Op 11
1918; re-written in 1957 as Weiner's Violin Concerto No 2, Op 45

Allegro  [6'21]
Presto  [2'44]
Larghetto  [5'49]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Weiner composed his Violin Sonata No 2 in F sharp minor Op 11 in 1918, directly after the music for Csongor és Tünde, and regarded it as one of his most important works. In fact nearly forty years later, in 1957, he returned to it and composed a new version for violin and orchestra as his Violin Concerto No 2 Op 45—which proved to be his last composition. (Weiner seems to have gone in for arrangement and transcription a good deal: the Pastoral, Fantasy and Fugue for string orchestra was realized from his Third String Quartet, while the beautifully nostalgic Romance for cello, harp and strings is a 1949 arrangement of a piece for cello and piano from thirty years earlier.)

Like the first sonata, Sonata No 2 has four movements, but is planned on a larger scale, as is evident from the first bars of the opening Allegro, in which the violin unfolds a long bittersweet first subject somewhat reminiscent of the sonata of César Franck. (Weiner’s chamber and orchestral works often testify to his sympathy for French music.) As this sonata-form movement unfolds, however, a passionate Hungarian strain is also evident. It comes, however, to a serenely lyrical end, the violin having a rather plaintive last word. The ensuing short Presto scherzo is by contrast almost Mendelssohnian in its lightness and flashing wit, the violin and piano swapping phrases with antiphonal abandon. A more authentically Hungarian tone is heard in the romantic Larghetto slow movement, where the violin spins its nostalgic song against measured descending chords on the piano. The finale opens with a rhapsodic introduction (Rubato) which freely recalls first the music of the scherzo, then the first movement in impassioned recitative, then finally the third movement, sweeping into a cadenza-like pyrotechnic display for violin unaccompanied. This issues in the steady marching tread of a rondo-like Ziemlich rasch—an extended and highly inventive movement marked by passionate dialogue between the two instruments, and an occasional sardonic, almost Mahlerian shaft of wit, that brings this fine sonata to a good-humoured but essentially serious close.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2009

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