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Recordings of the Month

June

Support us financially by purchasing this from
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915) 
Mazurkas, Opp. 3 and 25

Samuil Feinberg (piano)
rec. 1950s, venue not specified
Track-Listing at end of review
MELODIYA MELCD1002192 [62.52]

The name Samuil Feinberg (1890-1962) has never had much prominence among classical music listeners. He was born in Odessa and studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Alexander Goldenweiser. In 1922 he joined the faculty and remained in post until his death. He forged a three-pronged career as pianist, composer and pedagogue. Despite his obscurity in the West, in Russia he was ranked alongside such distinguished pianists as Sofronitsky, Goldenweiser, Ginsburg and Neuhaus. As a composer he produced a substantial output of piano, vocal and chamber works, though I have never heard any of them. Unfortunately, in the Soviet Union, his compositions did not match up to the ideals of social realism, and consequently were rarely performed. As a pianist, he shunned the idea of promoting himself through his own music.
 
In the early years of the twentieth century, Feinberg met Alexander Scriabin, who was very impressed with the young man’s playing. The pianist’s discography contains, amongst other things, Scriabin piano sonatas, the piano concerto and the two sets of mazurkas under review here.
 
Listening to the first mazurka of Op. 3, one wouldn’t be too far off the mark in thinking that it was by Chopin. The same goes for the next few. In fact throughout the opus, one feels the influence of the Polish master. As one progresses to the next set, Scriabin veers away from Chopin’s influence and finds his own voice. Yet, these works are not stamped with the fingerprints of waywardness, chromaticism and mysticism that are a distinguishing feature of his later music; they are a more easy and comfortable listen. The Mazurkas show Scriabin’s progressively evolving harmonic development.
 
Feinberg’s is a romantic approach, with poetic insights and the application of subtle rubato. Despite the age of the recordings, the beauty of tone shines through, with sensitive pedal response to harmonic shifts, and myriad tonal shadings. Nuance and inflection is intuitively realised. Like many of his other recordings, these are distinguished by virtuosic prowess and technical polish.
 
Rarely programmed, these delightful works are suffused with a wealth of imagination and compositional skill. More pianists should take them up, and this CD has certainly won me over.
 
Stephen Greenbank
 
Track-Listing
 
Ten Mazurkas, Op. 3
No. 1 in B minor [3.44]
No. 2 in F sharp minor [ 2.11]
No. 3 in G minor [1.58]
No. 4 in E major [3.57]
No. 5 in D sharp minor [4.04]
No. 6 in C sharp minor [2.19]
No. 7 in E minor [3.28]
No. 8 in B flat minor [2.38]
No. 9 in G sharp minor [ 2.56]
No. 10 in E flat minor [5.31]
Nine Mazurkas, Op. 25
No. 1 in F minor [2.44]
No. 2 in C major [3.29]
No. 3 in E minor [2.07]
No. 4 in E major [3.57]
No. 5 in C sharp minor [3.43]
No. 6 in F sharp major [2.45]
No. 7 in F sharp minor [4.56]
No. 8 in B major [2.45]
No. 9 in E flat minor [3.28]