Samuel Feinberg was
one of the most important and refined musicians of the 20th century. A great
pianist, an outstanding composer, a unique pedagogue and a musicologist, he
became one of the legendary figures in the history of the Russian music culture.
Samuel Feinberg was born in 1890 in Odessa. Since 1894, his family lived in
His outstanding musical talent was recognized rather early. He studied music
with Alexander Jensen and later with Professor Alexander Goldenweiser, meeting
with whom became the turning point in Feinberg's artistic destiny. A wonderful
pedagogue and outstanding pianist, he disclosed to the young pupil the secrets
of virtuosity and deep understanding of classical music. At the same time,
Feinberg studied composition with Nikolai Zhiliaev (his first opuses were
written when the young composer was only 11 and already attracted attention of
In 1911, Samuel Feinberg graduated from the Moscow Conservatory. For his final
exam, he prepared a program that included all 48 preludes and fugues from Bach's
"Well-Tempered Clavier". Even for the Moscow Conservatory, it was sensational.
After the declaration of the First World War, Feinberg was called to the army,
but discharged after falling sick with typhoid fever in 1915.
In that same year he gave a cycle of concerts and continued composing. His
sonatas, romances, and concertos for piano and orchestra became famous in Russia
In 1922 Samuel Feinberg became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory. In the
course of many years he created his own piano school marked by a special
virtuosity, and developed a whole galaxy of fine musicians: Victor Merzhanov,
Nina Yemelyanova, Vladimir Natanson, Ludmila Roschina, Zinaida Ignatieva, Victor
Bunin and many others. In the class at in the Moscow Conservatory where Samuel
Yevgenyevich taught hangs a memorial plaque in his honor.
It is no exaggeration to say that Feinberg was one of the most eminent pianists
of his time. His concerts always evoked great interest among music lovers.
Profound wisdom and great expression of his interpretations, enormous emotional
power and intellect made each his concert unique. He played concerts in Russia
and abroad; in 1925 he successfully performed at a festival in Venice; later,
toured in Germany: in Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg...
Here is an excerpt from an article by a famous critic of that time, Yevgeny
Braudo ("Soviet Musicians in Germany", Pravda, 1927):
"Feinberg's brilliant dexterity and very strong musicality created an impression
of something unprecedented and fresh for a German public used to less complex
and expressive pianism."
The phenomenal musical memory of Feinberg became proverbial. He knew by heart
and could play by the request of his audience any piano composition by Bach,
Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and Scriabin.
He was the first performer of many works by contemporary Soviet composers -
Prokofiev, Miaskovsky, Anatoly Alexandrov...
Samuel Feinberg authored several unique theoretical works: the book The Fate of
the Musical Form, and the monograph Pianism as an Art, which has become
reference books for many musicians.
Samuel Feinberg died in 1962.
“The sincerety of his noble service to the Art was the most natural state for
Feinberg”, wrote about him his pupil Victor Bunin, a pianist, pedagogue, and a
researcher of Samuel Feinberg’s life and work. “He never allowed himself any
compromises to the ‘average taste’ of the audience, and there was no arrogance
or snobbery in that. That is, perhaps, one of the reasons for the everlasting
freshness of his art. Many phenomena of art, deliberately meant for being
popular and ‘easy’, in the course of time become archaic - their ties to the
epoch shorten their lives. It cannot happen to the art of Samuel Feinberg. Its
actuality never was in any kind of defiance with the main principles of the real
art - the fidelity to the everlasting beauty, eternal values of Life despite all
temptations of fashion.”
(From a book: ”Samuel Yevgenievich Feinberg. His life and work”. Victor Bunin.
Moscow, “Music”, 1999)