Russian composer Samuil Feinberg's Third Piano Concerto has been recorded, and the Second has been revived in modern times, but the First was not heard for more than six decades after its second performance in 1934 as the score was regarded as irretrievably lost. Pianist Christophe Sirodeau conducted a patient and painstaking search for the work beginning around 1990; he finally located the lost concerto in the attic of the Moscow Conservatory and revived it with Leif Segerstam and the Helsinki Philharmonic in 1998. The 1998 revival of the Feinberg's First Piano Concerto is what we hear on this Altarus release, along with a selection of some of Feinberg's solo piano pieces, several of which have never appeared on disc before.
Feinberg's Concerto No. 1 in C major is a major work that is amazing in its uniqueness, complexity, and daring. The music of Alexander Scriabin was a significant influence on Feinberg, and as he seemed to pick up Scriabin's idiom and move forward with it in the years after Scriabin's death, this has proven one of the reasons we find Feinberg so fascinating in retrospect. Nevertheless, another important influence on Feinberg was Ferruccio Busoni, and in this first concerto, Feinberg redirects some of Scriabin's harmonic thinking through Busoni's "renewed classicality" and oblique use of polychromatic polyphony. As in the 1904 Busoni Piano Concerto, there are no glittering solo spots for the pianist to show off, and there is much of integration of the whole ensemble into a restless, ceaselessly busy polyphonic texture. As the whole work is parsed in a single, 34-minute movement made up of relatively short sections, Altarus usefully adds three index points to the work that make it easier to study. Leif Segerstam and the Helsinki Philharmonic deserve a great deal of credit for holding Feinberg's elusive and intractably interlocking orchestral textures together. The audience in Helsinki provides only weak applause at the end, seemingly drained by the music just heard; indeed, the work's first performances were reportedly received in a similar way -- the bright C major chord that ends the concerto does seem to land with a bit of a thud. However, to ears attuned to such highly rarified and intellectualized fare, this will be like a feast for the imagination.
The short pieces at the end are certainly easier to ingest, and Sirodeau's performances of them are winning; the Three Preludes Op. 15 (1923), stand out, as do the never-before recorded Album for Children (1961-1962), which may be described as neither easy or facile, just lighter in texture than Feinberg's usual wont. Those interested in the music of Samuil Feinberg will not want to be without this Altarus release, as it fills in a huge lapse in his output and contributes in a major way to understanding his unique music and overall contribution.