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Samuil FEINBERG (1890-1962)
Piano Concerto No.2 Op.36 (1945) [37:21]
Suite for Piano No.2 Op.25 (1936) [5:26]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata No.11 in B flat major Op.22 (1800) [23:48]
Samuil Feinberg (piano)
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Nicolai Anosov
rec. Moscow 1946 (Concerto); 1939 (Suite); 1960 (Beethoven)
MELODIYA MEL CD 10 01005 [66:43]

One of the more heartening things of the last few years has been the attention paid to Samuil Feinberg, both as executant and composer. This Melodiya release neatly conjoins those two facets of his art in presenting the Second Concerto and the Suite.

The Concerto was composed in 1945 and recorded the following year in Moscow with that first class accompanist Nicolai Anosov conducting the USSR State Symphony Orchestra. It’s an unusual work, quixotic and not easily pinned down, and perhaps all the more valuable for it. Feinberg alternates puckish whimsy with stern orchestral interjections – added to which there’s a certain Delphic Bachian reserve. Contrasts of deep bass and light treble are also woven into the fabric of a score in which the idiom seems at least partially derived from Medtner. The aloof lyricism of the slow movement is enlivened by some coruscating drama further deepened by some evocative writing for bass clarinet. The scherzo is a blistering ride, though the finale, whilst reverting to the puckish spirit of the opening is, in truth, not always so distinguished thematically. The recording, as one might expect of this vintage, is rather congested and crude. It tends to limit appreciation of the subtlety of Feinberg’s orchestration but the forward sound of the piano is to the advantage of the heroic composer-executant who delivers a powerhouse performance.

His Suite is cast in five very brief movements, the slightest less than a minute long. The centrepiece is the beautifully nourishing lied that lies at the Suite’s heart. The Allegretto finale is full of fluid grace. The sound is typical of Moscow recordings around this time, 1939 – constricted. The sole example of Feinberg’s playing of music other than his own here comes in the form of Beethoven’s Op.22. This receives a highly emotive and driving reading; left hand accents aren’t pointed with, say, Kempff’s refinement or strategic intent. Feinberg’s sound picture is very much more dense, more congested than that cultivated by the German player. Those darker and teakier textures are most obvious in the same sonata’s slow movement. There’s more of everything; more arm weight, more pedal, more obvious depth, a blacker, bleaker place entirely. This sonata has also been reissued on Classical Records CR076 where it’s coupled with Opp. 7 and 109. The CR transfer has the piano significantly more forward in the aural picture but Melodiya’s transfer is otherwise decent for the 1960 vintage.

I certainly hope that Melodiya’s Feinberg reissue programme will explore further and wider.

Jonathan Woolf




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