LAZARE SAMINSKY was born in Vale-Gotzulovo, a village not far from Odessa, on October 27, 1882. His mother possessed great musical talent, and it is from her that Saminsky inherited his great passion for music, showing this by composing songs since childhood. His father was deeply interested in world politics, and was a devoted reader of great literature, particularly Shakespeare and Turgeniev. Thus culture and refinement constituted Saminsky's background from earliest childhood.
His education, at first, brought him far away from music. He went thru the St. Petersburg University with the intention of adopting a life of scholarship, specializing in mathematics and philosophy. At the age of sixteen he wrote a commentary on Spinoza Ethics, and translated Descartes' Meditationes de Prima Philosophia from Latin into Russian. From philosophy, he passed on into higher mathematics and specialized in integral calculus, mathematical logic, and geometry of curved spaces. It seemed as if a brilliant life as mathematician and philosopher stretched before him when, upon graduation from the University, he suddenly decided that music appealed to him even more strongly than scholarship. Until then, his training in music had been very spasmodic, but it had been sufficient to instill in him a deathless love for the art and to inspire him to write numerous amateur compositions for voice and even for orchestra.
And so, equipped with an elementary background which he had procured mostly by himself during idle afternoons at home, he entered the class of Rimsky- Korsakoff in 1906. It seemed that Saminsky had been blessed with an intuitive feeling and instinctive sense for composition, for despite his inadequate background he was soon, together with Miaskovsky and Prokofieff, his schoolmates, at the head of his class. Subsequently, under another great master, Liadov, an added polish and sureness was brought to his style. In 1909, Saminsky conducted his first work to reach public performance, an Overture which
was performed by the Petrograd Conservatory Orchestra. A few months before that, he had banded together with several of his co-religionists--Michael Gniessin, Solomon Rosovsky, Julius Engel, etc.--into what was later to be known as the Society of Hebrew Folk- Song, an association which was to influence Saminsky's entire career as a composer. Since 1910, Saminsky,'s career has been that of every active and important musician.
For a year, Saminsky was in military service in the Caucasus. In 1913, he was invited by Koussevitsky to conduct his triad of poems for orchestra ( Vigiliae) in Moscow, succeeding for the first time in attracting the attention of Moscow audiences to his music. That same year a still more important event occurred in his career when the Baron Horace de Guinzbourg's ethnological expedition commissioned him to explore the religious folk music of Caucasia, and particularly of Georgia. It was this research work that convinced Saminsky of the importance of folk music and which turned him for a long while to Hebrew folklore as the incentive to his own creation.
The first of his works in this new idiom was the Lament of Rachel which, as Domenico de Paoli writes, "despite its youth, is one of the best of Saminsky's creative achievements." Since that work,