Friday, November 21, 2014

Unknown Giants From the Russian Piano School...

From the time of Anton Rubinstein, whom History has named the Founder of the Russian Piano School, the world of music has been enthralled by the magic of  such legends as Rachmaninoff, Horowitz, Gilels, Kissin and others who have been given to  us by way of this fascinating group of pianists from Mother Russia.
And this School continues to produce at world-level brilliance such names as Pletnev and Volodos, with no seeming end in sight for this vaunted clutch of piano magicians.
But - how many know of, say, Samuil Feinberg, born some thirteen years before Horowitz?
Or, is the name Vladimir Sofronitsky, born two years before Horowitz, familiar to you?
Let's take up, in short form, these two products of the Russian Piano School; and if you'd like, I will gladly add on to a list of  other pretty well forgotten geniuses who straddled the 19th and 20th centuries, and who have had influence upon a number of  great Russian pianists the world of music is familiar with:
Samuil Feinberg was reared pretty thoroughly by the school of pianistic thought emanating from Beethoven's pupil Czerny via the names Liszt and, probably, Siloti. To give you an idea of the level of piano performance the young Feinberg attained as a student is the day of his piano exam in 1911 at the Moscow Conservatory, let alone his stamina! In the morning he played works of Handel, Mozart and Franck, followed by the still freshly composed 3rd Concerto of Rachmaninoff. He returned that same afternoon to play both books of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier.
He was the only pianist able to play any one of the ten Scriabin Sonatas at any time, and also accompanied a violinist during these days in the complete Beethoven violin sonatas.
The story of Vladimir Sofronitsky is rather tragic after his having reached fame, which I will explain a little further along:
He loved Scriabin's piano music, and played the composer's only concerto at his exam in 1921. Scriabin's widow was present at a performance Sofronitsky gave of the 3rd sonata, and remarked that she had never heard the true depth of meaning of  her late husband's music until that performance, and never forgot that experience. Prokofiev, some ten years older than Sofronitsky, was a great admirer of this pianist, and the two became friends.
Sadly, he was not exactly enamored of the politics of the day, and the result was his becoming ostracized by Russian officialdom and relegated to minor positions within his profession and not allowed to tour outside of Russia. The result was gradual disintegration from both alcoholism and  drug addiction, with  obscurity the final punishment.
If you try, you can find recordings of both Feinberg and Sofronitsky available. I  am quite sure that you will be greatly impressed...

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