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The Lost Works
Samuil FEINBERG (1890-1962)
Violin Sonata (No. 1), Op. 12 (1912) [17:31]
Fantasia in E flat major, Op. 5 (1917) [11:07]
Suite No. 1 (Quatre Pieces En Forme D’etudes), Op. 11 (1919) [5:14]
Hanuš (Hans) WINTERBERG (1901-1991)
Piano Sonata No. 1 (1936) [16:24]
Piano Suite, 'Theresienstadt 1945' [7:33]
Nina Pissareva Zymbalist (violin)
Christophe Sirodeau (piano)
rec. 2001/18, Église Évangélique Saint-Marcel, Paris
MELISM MLSCD011 [59:44]

With the exception of Samuil Feinberg’s Suite, which he himself recorded on a 78 in 1929 (it’s been transferred to CD and can be found on Arbiter 118), these are all world premiere recordings. Feinberg’s status as a pianist has never occluded his compositions – the cycle of piano sonatas has been explored on disc, and Marc-André Hamelin has just released his take on the first six for Hyperion - but many things have not yet been published.

This is the case with the early and almost unknown Violin Sonata of 1912 which was recorded back in 2001. Feinberg reused the Scherzo, without much amendment, in his ‘official’ Violin Sonata of 1946 and there were a few loose ends in the finale that have been tied up by pianist Christophe Sirodeau, who presents invaluable information regarding the work’s history in his authoritative booklet notes. It opens deceptively in rather teashop style before soon embracing chromaticism and decidedly Scriabinesque traits. The flighty, cleverly repeated elements of the Scherzo are followed by a melancholy but unpredictable slow movement, the work’s heart. It has a characterful quality, cemented by the youthfully extrovert finale, where one finds the kind of unbuttoned exuberance rare in Feinberg’s works.

His Fantasia in E flat major followed in 1917, and its nobility and even Wagnerian associations run emotively throughout its eleven-minute length. It too acknowledges Scriabin, a lasting influence on Feinberg, in its vehement outbursts. The concentrated charms of the Suite, four pieces in the form of etudes, involve rich singing lyricism, pert hesitancies, melancholic and fretful paragraphs and a comprehensive sense of colour and variety.

Hanuš (Hans) Winterberg was eleven years younger than Feinberg. Born in Prague, he was incarcerated in Terezin from January 1945 (his marriage to a Catholic had protected him until their divorce) and after his release he continued to live in the city of his birth before leaving for Bavaria where he spent the remainder of his life. Toccata has inaugurated a series of discs devoted to his music, which I can strongly recommend (review).

His Piano Sonata No.1 dates from 1936. The opening is a crisp, agitato affair, restless but not aggressive with inbuilt rubato-like moments whereas the Adagio embraces limpid, quiet but also more implacable elements. The finale opens with a stalking March theme and there’s plenty of vivid, dramatic writing, increasingly vehement and moto perpetuo. There’s more than a hint of something in the air. By the time of the Suite, composed during his incarceration in Terezin, almost a decade had passed. There’s something almost crisply neo-classical about the Praeludium but the funereal breadth that suffuses the central slow movement establishes the gravity of the work. It’s followed by a Postludium that generates ostinato patterns, implacable, but never remotely over-driven.

The Feinberg Violin Sonata was recorded fully 17 years before the other works but the recording location remains the same so there is consistency of sound; a very effective one too. Nina Pissareva Zymbalist is a questing violinist who has pursued the music of Skalkottas with equally successful results, as has Christophe Sirodeau who is equally known for his outstanding work on behalf of composers such as Ullmann and Kaprálová.

Jonathan Woolf

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