Aleksandr A. Krein: Voice in the Wilderness
Aleksandr Abramovich Krein (also given as Kreyn) was born in Nizhniy-Novgorod (Gorki under the Soviet regime) on October 20, 1883 and died in Moscow on April 21, 1951. Krein's father, Abraham ( 1838-1921), was a violinist (known as a klezmer in Yiddish) and specialized in folk music; his elder brother, David ( 1869-1926), was the leader of the Bolshoi orchestra and a prominent pedagogue at the Moscow Conservatoire; another brother, Grigoriy, and Grigoriy's son were both composers (see Chapters 16 and 17). By the age of seven Krein had already begun to compose. He entered the Moscow Conservatoire in 1897 and graduated as a violinist in 1907, from the studio of A. Glehn. He also studied theory and composition with B. L. Yavorsky, A. N. Koreshchenko, and L. W. Nikolaev. From 1912 to 1917 he was appointed to the staff at the Conservatoire in Moscow, becoming a fully fledged professional by the time of the Revolution, and he had already composed a respectable body of works embodying ancient and modern Jewish sources. After 1917 he worked with the Habimah ( Jewish State Theaters), creating incidental music for more than ten productions in Moscow, Belorussiya, and the Ukraine. From 1918 to 1922 he held various positions in the State Music Department, working on composition part-time; from 1918 to 1920 he was Secretary for Modern Music in the Commission for Folklore, and from 1922 he acted as a member of the editorial board of the State Publishing House. After leaving the Moscow Conservatoire, he continued composition studies at the Moscow Philharmonic School of Music, working with A. N. Koreshchenko and S. V. Protopopov. His early compositions showed the immediate influence of Scriabin, whom Krein knew personally, as well as S. I. Taneev. As his work matured, it became clear that Krein was a kind of spiritual descendant of the "Mighty Five," considering his interest in the use of folk music, orientalism (in his case, his own Jewish heritage), and the idea of a "school" of composers.
The output encompasses a huge variety of genres. Justly, Krein is considered, with composers like Gnessin, Saminsky, and Veprik, to be one of the founders of the Russian Jewish School. Asafiev considered Krein to be the greatest Jewish composer of that assemblage. Krein first attracted attention with a symphonic work, "Salome," in which, according to Montagu-Nathan, he revealed "an ever increasing emotional power, and a harmonic richness that comes from the composer's own feeling, as much as from any outside force." Krein's music was performed at concerts given by the ACM, and attracted some good press. It was not until 1921 that Krein associated