Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Complete Piano Works Vol. 3 – Children’s Notebooks


Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919 – 1996) wrote the piano works on this album following his move to Moscow in 1943. There he established a close and mutually respectful friendship with Shostakovich, who at the time was working on piano pieces for his young daughter to play. Weinberg’s Children’s Notebook was composed in three books for his own daughter, Victoria, but he demanded more technical prowess than the beginner-level pieces of his colleague. Indeed,Victoria never played these works and they were criticized as being inappropriately difficult for young performers. Listening to the music, I generally forgot that it was supposedly written for children, being reminded only by the occasional childish sounding melodic theme.

In addition to the three children’s notebooks, Weinberg’s 21 Easy Pieces, Op. 34is also included. These tiny character pieces conjure rather an hodgepodge of moods as a little one might experience, and in a surprisingly short period of time. Even with titles like Merry March, Melancholy Waltz, and Little Rabbits, this music is still quite sophisticated, especially in terms of Weinberg’s use of harmony where he’ll frequently roam from the tonal center and back again.

Weinberg has been called by some critics to be among the three greatest Soviet composers along with Shostakovich and Prokofiev, and the influence of those masters, along with Bartók and Myaskovsky can be heard in this music. The performances by Allison Brewster Franzetti and the sound quality provided by the Grand Piano label are first rate in this, the third volume of a continuing series of Weinberg’s complete piano music.

For a taste of Weinberg’s musical language, below is a video of the second movement of the first piano sonata played by Elisaveta Blumina.