Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Samuel Feinberg (1890-1962). First recordings 1929-48
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor BWV 903
Well Tempered Clavier Book II:

Prelude and Fugue No. 15 in G BWV 884
Prelude and Fugue No. 19 in A BWV 888
Prelude and Fugue No. 20 in A minor BWV 889
Chorale preludes arranged Feinberg:
Allein Gott in der höh sei her BWV 711
Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten BWV 647
Concerto after Vivaldi in A minor BWV 593 arranged Feinberg – First Movement
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata in F minor Op 57 Appassionata
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Waldszenen Op. 82:

Jagdlied (No. 8)
Vogel als prophet (No. 7)
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Consolation Nos. 5 and 6
Anatole LIADOV (1855-1914)

Idylle Op. 25
Samuel FEINBERG (1890-1962)

Suite Op. 11 – 4 Pieces in Etude Form (1923)
Alexei STANCHINSKY (1888-1914)

Prelude in canon form (1913-14)
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)

Mazurka in F sharp minor Op. 25 No. 7
Etude Op. 42 No. 3
Fragilité Op. 51 No. 1
Samuel Feinberg (piano)
Recorded Berlin and Moscow 1929-48
ARBITER 118 [77.05]


Feinberg’s Well-Tempered Clavier, a titanic recording, would be enough to keep his name imperishably alive in the annals of great Bach playing. A pupil of Goldenweiser, of whom he wrote with typical acumen and intellectual elevation, Feinberg was an associate and early exponent of the music of Scriabin (who admired the pianist greatly) – the Scriabin discs on this Arbiter disc are I believe the only extant Feinberg recordings of the composer’s music. He was also an avowed proponent of contemporary Russian composers – Miaskovsky, Stanchinsky and Prokofiev prominent amongst them though there were of course many others. Amongst Russian pianists he was one of the leading exponents of Bach and Beethoven and was an influential figure not least as a profoundly important teacher.

Before the export ban on musicians in the early thirties Feinberg could travel to Germany where he gave recitals and recorded for Polydor. Arbiter’s attractive programme notes – which consist in the main of a fascinatingly incisive and detailed transcription of a 1946 interview between the pianist and A V Vitsinsky – also include a sample programme from a 1929 Berlin concert. No doubt to promote his recent recordings – or maybe as a trial run for the recordings themselves – the Vivaldi-Feinberg Concerto, Appassionata and Stanchinsky’s Prelude in Canon Form are all, as it were, on the menu. I first came to Feinberg not through these early discs or even through the Well-Tempered Clavier but through the Chorale Prelude recordings of the 1950s and 1960s. In particular the 1962 discs, recorded barely a week before the pianist’s death from cancer, possess a transformative and transcendent beauty impossible to convey in mere words. And of these the recording of Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr is charged with such spiritual depth that it is numbing in its intensity (it may still be available on BMG 74321 25175 2 as part of the Russian Piano School series). Therefore in the light of my relative familiarity with the later Feinberg it has been a notably instructive experience to listen to these, his first records, but ones made when he was by no means a callow youth. He was nearing forty when he first went into the Berlin recording studios.

His Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue with which the recital begins was actually recorded in Moscow in 1948. It is dramatic and romantic, a leonine traversal but one sensitively shaped. It rises to peaks of declamatory grandeur whilst retaining utter fluency and levels of characterisation. More Russian discs follow; the Prelude in G from the late 1930s is occasionally overstressed (some rather heavy accents) but he brings out the occasionally gritty inwardness of the A minor Fugue. When we turn to those 1929 Polydors we encounter a rather more galvanic artist. Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten for example is exceptionally thunderous and outsize and his Appassionata one of the most driven you will hear. The opening Allegro assai is fissure laden but very exciting (there was clearly a tough side join at 3.00) and whilst the slow movement is not overburdened with sentiment it’s still affectingly done. The finale is not always intact technically but blazes defiantly – a heroic maybe somewhat intemperate reading at times but unignorable as an artistic statement whatever ones reservations.

His Schumann will divide opinion; it sounds rather brisk to me (Jagdlied especially) and Vogel als prophet lacks mystery. His Liadov however is exquisitely limpid and of the four tiny movements of his own Op 11 Suite – in etude form and dedicated to his revered teacher Goldenweiser - the highlight is the last, a Tranquillo e cantabile of elliptical tracery and Scriabinesque elusiveness. Stanchinsky was a composer Feinberg promoted; he plays the Prelude in canon form with admirable clarity and forthright projection. The three Scriabin pieces, barely seven minutes’ worth of music, are as I said the only known survivors of his extensive repertoire. It’s tempting to overemphasize his direct line to authorial imprimatur but listening to the way in which Feinberg binds the F sharp Mazurka is as memorable as the way in which he most movingly conveys its ultimately unresolved tension. His elegance is demonstrated with unambiguous assurance in the last piece of this disc, Fragilité, another 1929 Polydor.

Transfers are first class, the printed interview offers rich rewards to the attentive listener and the disc restores to circulation an admirable selection of repertoire, catching him in early to late middle age. He had not yet reached the true plateau of his greatness but this is Feinberg, forceful and sensitive, and an artist very well worth getting to know.

Jonathan Woolf

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