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Samuil Feinberg (1890-1962) was one of the great “composer/pianists,” although his relative obscurity belies this. It’s a shame, because his music rewards careful and concentrated listening and is also challenging, in the best way.

In addition to being a fantastic pianist, Feinberg was an important teacher as well. One of his last students, Victor Bunin (1936-), was instrumental in bringing some of Feinberg’s unpublished songs to light. These were recorded on CD for the first time on the disc, “Samuil Feinberg: Songs,” which was released under the Altarus label.

Under the musical direction and accompaniment of pianist/composer Christophe Sirodeau, the 27 songs contained herein were performed by mezzo-soprano Riita-Majia Ahonen and bass Sami Luttinen. Maestro Sirodeau (1970-) is also one of the two pianists who recorded Feinberg’s “Piano Sonatas 1-6” and “Piano Sonatas 7-12” which were released under the BIS label.

While Feinberg has his own harmonic blueprint, you can hear echoes of Scriabin and Debussy in his music, to name just two. It’s not surprising that his music is centered around the piano. However, liner notes from Maestro Sirodeau emphasize that throughout his life, Feinberg’s songs were the most constant feature of his compositional output.

This generous, approximately 76-minute disc contains songs set to poetry by the likes of Alexander Pushkin, Alexander Blok, Andrei Belyi, and Mikhail Lermontov, among others. The accompanying booklet contains a separate essay devoted to the poets.

Although English translations were provided, they were not accompanied by parallel phonetic Russian texts, which made “following along while listening” somewhat problematic. However, the performances seemed quite idiomatic and both of the singers were in fine voice. Luttinen’s bass voice was strikingly resonant, and Maestro Sirodeau’s exemplary accompaniment was reminiscent of his performances of the aforementioned Feinberg “Piano Sonatas.”

As I mentioned above, these were premiere recordings of these works. Check this disc out, and discover a fascinating composer.