The Reluctant Avant-Gardists
Samuil E. Feinberg: The Post-Scriabin Pianist
Samuil Evgenevich Feinberg was born in Odessa on May 26, 1890 and died in Moscow on October 22, 1962. Feinberg lived in Moscow from 1894. An important Russian pianist and composer, currently largely forgotten in the West, he laid pianistic and musico-theoretical groundwork with A. F. Jensen in Moscow. In 1904-1905 he continued his studies at the Moscow Philharmonic School, including piano with A. Goldenweiser, and then became a pupil at the Moscow Conservatoire from 1905 until graduation in 1911, studying with Goldenweiser (piano) and N. S. Zhilaev (composition). From 1912 on he commenced his career as a solo pianist in Russia and abroad. In composition he began as an obvious disciple of Scriabin, and to a lesser extent, Myaskovsky. His Sonata No.6 was chosen to be played at the ISCM Festival in Venice, September 1925. In 1927 he concertized in Germany ( Franfurt-am-Main, Berlin, Leipzig, and Hamburg), presenting music of Scriabin, Stanchinskiy, Aleksandrov, Myaskovsky, Prokofiev, Polovinkin, Goedicke, Catuar, and his own. The bulk of his compositions are for solo piano or voice with piano (although there are also three piano concerti). He was obviously most at ease with the keyboard, and wrote difficult but pianistic music. He was considered an important performer and teacher in Russia, producing a kind of ecstatic playing reminiscent of Scriabin, although wilder and less disciplined. His book on piano playing was published soon after his death.
His song settings of the symbolist school were considered to be fine examples of a composer who captured the essential spirit of poets such as Blok. After 1930, Feinberg had to toe the Party line, and he produced a certain amount of "establishment" music, but during the 1920s, he was certainly one of the more exciting of the new talents. His art is darker than Scriabin's, and there is not that striving toward light; neither is there a declared program of any kind because Feinberg preferred to leave such matters to the imagination of the listener. Sabaneev declared that Feinberg was similar to Schumann, Poe, and Dostoevsky, thus suggesting that he was an obsessed personality as a composer. Like Scriabin, Feinberg used the full sweep of the keyboard, but he