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BIS-CD-1413 Feinberg - Piano EAN 7318590014134 TT 70'13
Samuil Feinberg: Piano Sonata No.1, Op.1; Piano Sonata No.2, Op.2 (1915-16); Piano Sonata No.3, Op.3 (1916); Piano Sonata No.4, Op.6 (1918); Piano Sonata No.5, Op.10 (1920-21); Piano Sonata No.6, Op.13 (1923)
Nikolaos Samaltanos, piano (Sonatas Nos.1, 4 & 5); Christophe Sirodeau, piano (Sonatas Nos.2, 3 & 6)
Samuil (Samuel) Evgenievitch Feinberg (1890-1962), who was born in Odessa, will be a new name to many. And those who are familiar with it are more likely to have come across him as a pianist rather than as a composer. His recordings of piano music from Bach to Scriabin belong to the history of pianism and are still being reissued. Feinberg was certainly a remarkably gifted pianist but he saw himself, above all, as a composer. The performers on this disc - pianists Nikolaos Samaltanos and Christophe Sirodeau who have already done so much to promote the music of Skalkottas on BIS - argue that Feinberg's own music has been very unjustly neglected, largely on account of the political conditions prevailing in the Soviet Union during so much of his lifetime. In spite of his eminence as a performer, Feinberg was basically confined to the Soviet Union from the 1930s onwards and as his own compositions did not correspond to the criteria of "socialist realism" they were not much performed. Feinberg was an influential teacher with a profound dislike of self-promotion. Contemporaries described him as a "deeply visionary artist who was full of the abysses and ambiguities of modern life" and his piano sonatas were seen as "poems of life".
This disc is the first of two volumes devoted to the complete piano sonatas of Samuel Feinberg. It contains the first six sonatas written at various times between 1915 and 1923. Besides the committed performances of the two pianists Nikolaos Samaltanos and Christophe Sirodeau, the latter also contributes a substantial essay on the composer and his neglected works. (Three of these important sonatas have never been recorded before.) Another major "first" from BIS.
For an enlightening and entertaining interview with BIS founding director Robert von Bahr concerning the company's 30th anniversary, recording ideals old and new, and the importance of being digital, please visit the following link:

BIS-CD-1414 Feinberg - Piano TT 79'40
Samuil Feinberg: Piano Sonata No.7, Op.21; Piano Sonata No.8, Op.21a (1924-34); Piano Sonata No.9, Op.29 (1939); Piano Sonata No.10, Op.30 (1940-43); Piano Sonata No.11, Op.40 (1952); Piano Sonata No.12, Op.48 (1962)
Nikolaos Samaltanos, piano (Sonatas Nos.9, 10 & 11); Christophe Sirodeau, piano (Sonatas Nos.7, 8 & 12)

Im November letzten Jahres veröffentlichte BIS die erste der zwei CDs, die den Sonaten von Feinberg gewidmet sind. Diese CD enthält nun die letzten Sonaten, die zwischen 1924 und 1962 entstanden sind. Drei dieser Sonaten sind noch nie vorher aufgenommen worden. Diese Edition zeigt Feinberg als eine unverwechselbare Stimme; seine Klavierwerke sind fraglos ein bedeutender Beitrag zu diesem Genre im 20. Jahrhundert.



The music of Samuil Evgenievitch Feinberg is hypnotic in the extreme, most obviously close to Scriabin in mystical mode. All credit to BIS (who already are doing sterling work for the composer Nikos Skalkottas) for releasing this magnificent disc, with superbly detailed annotations by Christophe Sirodeau, one of the two pianists featured on the disc, and a composer himself. Both Sirodeau and Samaltanos contributed to the Skalkottas/Feinberg concerts held in Paris in 1999. Intriguing, also, to have two such fine pianists’ reactions to the same composer’s music. Rather than dwell on any immediate differences, it seems truer to the spirit of the disc to point out both artists’ obvious dedication to and love of this music, two facets that result in this disc being the special release it is. It is certainly on my short-list as one of my ‘Discs of the Year’.

The shifting colours of the First Sonata are a fair indication of this composer’s sound-world. Shifting colours here both in the sense of Samaltanos’s keyboard touch, which is magnificent in its scope, but also in the harmonic language the composer uses. There is a lingering intensity about this statement, as the harmonies move from Scriabinesque to Bergian. The violent end of this short (6’50) Sonata comes as a surprise. Although contemporaneous with the first Sonata, the Second (both date from the year of Scriabin’s death) exhibits a wide frame of reference. The booklet notes point us towards Medtner and early Szymanowski. Similarly in one movement, it comes across as a single flow of consciousness. The pianist here, Christophe Sirodeau, realises the fairly unrelenting intensity while demonstrating an approach generally softer than that of Samaltanos - more identifiably Gallic, perhaps?

The Third Sonata, although it was composed in 1916, had to wait until 1974 for publication! The Marcia funebre and the fugato were reused in his Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 20. Much larger in size (three times as long as the First Sonata), it speaks of extremities of utterance that, technically, pose no problem to Sirodeau. Quasi-consonant harmonic arrival points act as markers or as the notes would have it, ‘life-buoys’. The prelude is dark, and harmonically advanced in the manner of late Liszt, while the similarly dark chordings of the Marcia Funebre make this experience hard work for both pianist and listener. The third movement, curiously and confusingly, is also called ‘Sonata’. The reference point that kept on cropping up was Steven Osborne’s excellent Hyperion disc of Kapustin (CDA67159).

Feinberg dedicated his Fourth Sonata to Miaskovsky. The impulsive, thrusting nature of the music is again reminiscent of Scriabin, almost, at his most elusive. Samaltanos returns, using a gentle touch now. In his booklet notes, Sirodeau refers to Bulgakov’s magnificent novel The Master and Margarita, with its unlikely parade of horror/comic ‘happenings’, as a point of reference. It is easy to see what he is getting at although Feinberg comes without the laughs. Feinberg’s harmonic logic ensures a stream of free-flow washes from first to last. For some reason, on each playing of the disc it was at this point that I mentally remarked on the excellence of the recording. Perhaps this one is just that bit superior to the rest? The recording date for Sonatas 1-5 is merely given as ‘Spring 2002’.

Samaltanos is the featured pianist in the Fifth Sonata of around 1920-21. At first it reminded me of Scriabin’s Fourth Piano Sonata, where harmonic drug-hazed meanderings meet elusive prestissimi. However Feinberg inhabits a world of his own - the figure of Ravel simultaneously hovers over the opening. The Allegro main section is relatively violent, featuring determined arpeggios. It is magnificent, because of the surety of Feinberg’s compositional hand; always, you are aware that the guiding voice is that of a Master.

The Sixth Sonata is probably the finest work in the present set. It takes in a world of references - the bell-like tolling of the opening seems to recall Debussy’s ‘Cathédrale engloutie’ (Préludes I); but Janácek and Schoenberg both vie for attention, all sitting alongside a perceptive use of the B-A-C-H motif. Some of the reiterated block chords (around 6’) even sound like gestures from early Stockhausen electronic music! The performance (Sirodeau) is miraculous. It is here that virtuosity reaches its peak.

The structure of the Sixth Sonata is determined by its ideas - there is no recap as such, just a sense of continual evolution. As Sirodeau writes, ‘the composer seems to find himself on the tip of an apocalyptic sword ... and the listener remains imprisoned by the spirit of confusion and even of irreparable tragedy that dominates this work.’ Often dark and violent, but also containing passages of Messiaen-like luminosity, this is a tour de force, a piece that simply refuses to let the listener go. The very close is typical in its thought-provoking way, leaving the listener hanging in the air.

The present issue is not really one to listen to straight through, not if you’re really listening - it would simply be too tiring. Enjoy the Sonatas one at a time, and enjoy the voyage of discovery.

Colin Clarke / MusicWeb 2004


Samuel Evgenievitch Feinberg was famous in his lifetime as a
virtuoso pianist and respected teacher, and somewhat less as a composer of
great imagination and skill. The piano sonatas presented on this disc reveal
two stylistic sides of Feinberg: the elaborate, intensely chromatic
fantasist of Sonatas No. 7 and No. 8; and the more diatonic, elegant
academic of the Sonatas No. 9-12. Listeners will be reminded of Skryabin in
the first two works, for that composer's influence was strong on Feinberg
until 1934. During the repressive Stalinist years and until his death,
Feinberg either maintained silence or published more accessible works that
passed party scrutiny. His later style, safely within conservative Soviet
guidelines, was influenced by Prokofiev, but elements of Feinberg's earlier
wildness still appear in his unpredictable modulations and ambiguous
tonality. Nikolaos Samaltanos and Christophe Sirodeau divide the six sonatas
between them, and deliver them with equal levels of enthusiasm and
sensitivity. Sonatas No. 7, No. 8, and No. 9 receive their world-premiere
recordings here, and the revelation of these exciting works is an important
step in restoring Feinberg's reputation, long overdue. The recording is
satisfactory, though it has a recital hall resonance that suggests distant
microphone placement.

Blair Sanderson, All Music Guide 2004


Reference Recording - This one 10/10

Although Samuel Feinberg (1890-1962) is best known today as one of the great Russian pianists of his (or any) generation, his reputation as a composer has been neglected. He mainly concentrated on vocal music and works for his own instrument, including 12 sonatas for piano solo. Having recorded the first six for BIS, pianists Christophe Sirodeau and Nikolaos Samaltanos once again split the labor for the rest (Samaltanos plays Nos. 9, 10, and 11; Sirodeau plays 7, 8, and 12). The influence of Scriabin's later period decisively permeates Feinberg's style in its restless keyboard textures and harmonic density, with hints of the Futurist movement to come. If anything, Feinberg's piano writing often sounds more complex, like Godowsky transcribing Scriabin, or Szymanowski adding side comments.

The Seventh and Eighth sonatas, both three-movement works, exploit the piano to the hilt, not just in the super-virtuosic outer movements but also in the slow central movements' organ-like sonorities. Sonatas 9, 10, and 11 return to the single, continuous-movement form that Feinberg favored in earlier works and that Scriabin perfected in his last five sonatas. Here, however, the musical language has become more diatonic and superficially accessible (think later Prokofiev), although the technical difficulties hardly abate. Sirodeau and Samaltanos clearly believe in these fascinating albeit uneven works and imbue them with all the dynamic contrast, tonal variety, and technical finish they require. Even the largest, most intractable, note-packed climaxes (such as the Eighth sonata's concluding Allegro) are fully voiced and never banged out. Sirodeau's booklet annotations discuss Feinberg's music in thorough and refreshingly balanced detail, and the sonics are ideal.

Jed Distler, 2004


More reviews to be added soon