Composers: Samuil Feinberg
Compositions: Piano Sonatas Nos 1-6
Performers: Marc-André Hamelin p
Catalogue Number: Hyperion CDA68233

Pianists from the land of the Maple Leaf feature prominently at the moment with both Jan Lisiecki and Stewart Goodyear releasing Beethoven piano concerto sets and Angel Hewitt working her way through the sonatas and re-recording the Bach partitas. And that other Canadian maestro Marc-André Hamelin continues his deep dive for Hyperion into the works of neglected composers, turning his attention to the Odessa-born Soviet musician Samuil Feinberg (1890-1962) and six of his 12 piano sonatas.

The Sixth Sonata, dark and anxious, is considered his masterpiece and is in one continuous movement, as are four of the other five works on this disc. The exception is the Third Sonata – by far the longest with a prelude, funeral march and allegro appassionato, which alone extends to nearly 15 minutes. Feinberg withdrew it, Hamelin remarking that, “Perhaps he felt that he’d created something so excessive that most pianists wouldn’t touch it.” However some of its themes and ideas were resurrected a decade later when he composed his first piano concerto. His style has elements of Chopin and Scriabin, who admired Feinberg’s playing, perhaps unsurprisingly as Artur Schnabel criticised it for being too “nervous”.

Hamelin’s advocacy of Feinberg, who is better known as a performer and influential teacher, will be welcomed by audiophiles in search of forgotten treasure. Nikolaos Samaltanos and Christophe Sirodeau recorded all 12 sonatas for BIS in 2004. All show a striking use of harmony rather than memorable melodies. Perhaps Hamelin will work his impressive pianistic magic on the other six in a second volume.

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