Russian Jewish composer and pianist Samuil Feinberg has been largely neglected, perhaps because he made his peace with the Soviet bureaucracy and perhaps because of a generally conservative stylistic outlook. His gorgeously over-the-top Bach readings as a pianist have been reissued in Russia, and his piano sonatas, one of which was made the subject of a contest with Stravinsky's piano sonata by a Dutch newspaper, are sometimes performed. These songs, however, are world premieres on recordings. The booklet is a little obscure as to how they came to be performed by Finnish singers on an American label, but apparently the recording arose from a connection between accompanist Christophe Sirodeau and Victor Bunin, one of Feinberg's students (he was well known as a pedagogue later in life). The songs are beautifully performed here and include a lot of nice finds, especially for bass singers. Feinberg's style changed over the course of his long career, but he started out under the influence of Mussorgsky, increasingly tinted with Impressionist harmonies as time went on. Later Feinberg flirted with dissonance, and eventually, in a couple of recently rediscovered songs presented here, near-atonality. The song cycle Maritsa, Op. 47 (tracks 13-20), is based on folk texts from the former Yugoslavia; it does not use actual folk melodies but rather an abstract folk idiom comparable to Khachaturian's. Perhaps the most attractive feature of Feinberg's songs in general is his flair for treating famous Russian poems creatively; aside from the Maritsa text, all the songs are on texts by famous names like Pushkin, Lermontov, and Alexander Blok, and Feinberg maintains a distinctively dark personality as he adapts well-known texts to evolving styles. Those texts are given in English only, not the original Russian, which hampers the disc's usefulness for singers, and indifferent engineering (the songs were recorded in two sessions several years apart) is a minor impediment, but collectors of twentieth century art song will find unknown riches here.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
I ya opyat zatih u nog (Snezhnaya noch) ("Once more I'm silent at your feet (Snowy Night)"), for voice & piano, Op. 7/2
|Maritsa (8), for voice & piano, Op. 47|
Ona rosla za dalnimi gorami ("Beyond the distant mountains she grew up"), for voice & piano, Op. 14/2
Naprasno ya begu k Sionskim vysotam ("In vain I hasten onto the heights of Sion"), for voice & piano, Op. 16/3