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Samuil FEINBERG (1890-1962)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major op.20 (1931) Fantasia No. 2 op.9 in E minor (1919); Etude op.11 No.1 in E flat major (1919); Prelude Op.8 No. 2 in A minor (1917); Prelude Op.8 No. 4 in E flat major (1917); Etude op.11 No.4 in F minor (1919); Three Preludes op. 15 (1923); Berceuse op 19a (1927); Son (The Dream) (from op.28) op. posth (1955); Album for Children op.posth. (1961-62) nine extracts
Christophe Sirodeau (piano)

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Leif Segerstam
rec. Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, 29 April 1998 (concerto)
ALTARUS AIR-CD-9034 [75:02]





Piano Sonatas: No.1 op.1 (1915) [6:50]; No.2 op.2 (1915-16) [9:01]; No.3 op.3 (1916) [23:24]; No.4 op.6 (1918) [8:33]; No.5 op. 10 (1920-21) [8:05]; No.6 op.13 (1923) [4:20]

Nikolaos Samaltanos (piano) (1, 4, 5); Christophe Sirodeau (piano) (2, 3, 6)
rec. Spring 2002 (1-5), December 1993 (6), Eglise Evangelique Saint Marcel, Paris, France. DDD world premiere recordings: 1, 3-4
BIS-CD-1413 [70:13]







Samuil FEINBERG (1890-1962)
Piano Sonatas: No.7 op.21 (1924-28) [18:45]; No.8 op.21a (1933-34) [14:59]; No.9 op.29 (1939) [9:06]; No.10 op.30 (1940-44) [11:42]; No.11 op. 40 (1952) [11:08]; No.12 op.48 (1962) [13:02]
Nikolaos Samaltanos (piano) (9-11); Christophe Sirodeau (piano) (7, 8, 12)

rec. 7 March 1999 (7), June 2001 (9), March 2002 (8, 10-12), Eglise Evangelique Saint Marcel, Paris, France. DDD
world premiere recordings: 7-9


Experience Classicsonline

Here are three discs devoted to the Russian composer-pianist Samuil Feinberg. One is from that Everest among the smaller exclusive labels: Altarus. The other two are from BIS and have already been reviewed here. You should also have a look at the site's account of the historic Soviet recordings by the composer on a Melodiya CD. The overarching factor across the three discs is the pianist-composer Christophe Sirodeau. He is at the centre of the Altarus project and shares the sonatas with Nikolaos Samaltanos on the two BIS discs. Sirodeau also has his own music allotted to another Altarus disc reviewed here. Samaltanos and Sirodeau collaborate in BIS discs of chamber music by Segerstam (BIS-CD-792) and Skalkottas (BIS-CD-1244; 1464). As for Samaltanos alone, he is the soloist in Skalkottas's 32 Klavierstücke (BIS-CD-1133-34).

Like David Oistrakh Feinberg was born in Odessa. His was the second ever recording of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier (1959) - the first was by Edwin Fischer. His sonatas are spread evenly through his composing life. They stretch from the Great War to the last year of his life. Most are in a single movement. The three movement sonatas 3, 7, 8 and 12 are exceptions. 

The First is very much like Medtner - a spray of jewelled sound and a smiling singing line. The third ends the trio of sonatas dating from the Great War. It is tougher and more tragic than the first two. It ends with a heroically belled out and decidedly urgent Allegro appassionato. The Fourth Sonata is dedicated to Miaskovsky whose Sixth Symphony it parallels in idiom. It has a turbulent and troubled air and some wonderfully Rachmaninovian eddying and tidal rips. The Fifth is all surreal mists and whorled patterns in motion ending in crystalline filigree and a modest baritonal resolution. Written in 1923 and published in Vienna in 1925 the Sixth Sonata is decidedly expressionist in mode with a welcoming embrace of Schoenbergian angularity, ricocheting rhetoric and a halting meditative delivery. Excepting the Third and Seventh it's the longest of the sonatas at 14:20. The Seventh is fey, surreal, linen-soft dissonant and sometimes imperiously gripping as in the short finale. Sonata 8 'reads' like a Daliesque dream where figures melt and reform. All is finally resolved in a slow-swinging and quietly sung figure. The Ninth represents a tilt back from the avant-garde rim. A more folk-based language is in the ascendant although the wild pianola rush towards the end is familiar from his more adventurous efforts. The Tenth is from the depths and climactic years of the Second War. Bells and conflict are played out across this tempestuous work typical of those slaughterous years. It also references Feinberg's exile in the Caucasus with Prokofiev and Myaskovsky. The Eleventh Sonata is tumultuous and leonine with none of the expressionist qualities we know from the mid-period sonatas. His 1962 Twelfth Sonata is in three short movements. There's an eddying Sonatina movement refracting Schumann through a glass darkly. The Intermezzo is a calming and cool half-sister to Ravel's Pavane. This is simply wonderful music and should be played by any well informed person looking for intelligent music by which to 'chill'. The final Improvisation takes something from the romantic breakers that smash across a Rachmaninov score and more from the shining stars of the Northern nights. 

Perhaps some day we will hear all three of the Feinberg piano concertos together. The First is on Altarus AIR-CD-9034 played by Sirodeau. The Second is to be heard from the composer on a Melodiya CD. The Third dates from the second half of the 1940s and is pretty much unknown apart from the Viktor Bunin recording; Bunin was a Feinberg pupil. That last concerto is said by Sirodeau to be very sombre and classical with a Mahlerian middle movement. 

The First Concerto dates from between the Seventh and Eighth Sonatas and is redolent of Myaskovsky at his most expressionist, gloomy-earnest and apocalyptic in the manner of Symphonies 7, 10 and 14. It stands at the borderland of tonality and it has the rhetoric of some rite. In this sense it is like an uncanny trade-off between Prokofiev Scythian Suite, Mossolov’s Steel Factory and Bax’s Symphonic Variations. One can see how it must have dropped vertiginously out of favour when Socialist-Realism became the order of the day. 

There is something of John Ireland’s Ballade in the Fantasia – grim stuff. More idyllic though still carrying the crazing of chilly dissonance alongside the Medtnerian cantilena are the Etude in E flat major and the Prelude in E flat major. The Prelude in A minor is sinister-surreal. The Lisztian swirling motion of the Etude in F minor further explores the tempest and gloom. The hysterical shatter of the Presto op. 15 is just as dramatically becalmed before the glassy shards begin to fly again. The violence falls away for the Berceuse op. 19a. Jumping forward three decades we come to Son (The Dream) and I detect a greater peace – the philosophic years. The harmonic world is still refracted. The last nine tracks are from Feinberg’s Album for Children and here the thoughtful and lyrical vein is explored without challenge of dissonance or distortion unless you count the goblin angularity of An Unfamiliar Footpath (tr. 19).  These little mood evocations are pensive, drifting pieces of whimsy; by no means shallow or emotionally simplistic. 

It would be good now to have Feinberg’s two later piano concertos in new recordings. He is a serious presence in 20th century piano music and can be counted in the company of Sorabji, Bowen, Ireland and Messiaen.

Rob Barnett

see also reviews by Colin Clarke (BISCD1413) and Jonathan Woolf (BISCD1414)



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