There were those that Stalin murdered or suppressed, those who went abroad and the few who stayed at home and kept very quiet for most of their lives. I thought I knew them all, but the New York pianist Vladimir Feltsman has put together a gallery of peripherals, each of whom adds a vital dimension to the Russian picture.
Alexei Stanchinsky (1888-1914) was a Scriabin-like figure who wrote vaguely modern sonorities and suffered intermittent mental lapses. He drowned two months into the First World War, possibly a suicide.
Samuel Feinberg (1890-1962) taught most of his life at the Moscow Conservatoire, confiding some secret Schoenberg leanings to the private page. Nikolai Obukhov (1892-1954) fled the Revolution to France, where he worked as a bricklayer, invented a new method of notation and preached religious mysticism to such willing ears as Olivier Messiaen. Why we don’t hear more of his wild pianisms is a bit of a mystery.
Arthur Lourie (1892-1966) was a high-ranking Soviet official when he defected to the West in 1921, making his reputation in Stravinsky’s shadow. Championed by Gidon Kremer, he is probably the best known in this selection, and well worth hearing.
Nikolai Roslavets (1880-1944), banned from 1930 on, was an outright atonalist who worked directly against the Soviet grain and was lucky to be left alive. Thirty years later, officials still talked of tearing up his grave. His Preludes are fabulously invigorating.
What about Sergei Protopopov (1893-1954), then, exiled to a Siberian penal camp for alleged homosexual acts? His second sonata is a car-wash of a piece, all jets of water and huge sweeps of machinery. Heavens, do we need this stuff right now! Or is it just the playing that makes it so convincing? Must get out some of the scores.