The eminent Russian pianist, pedagogue and composer, Samuel [Samuil] Feinberg, was born in Odessa and raised in Moscow. From an early age he exhibited an extraordinary talent on the piano. He enrolled in the Moscow Conservatory and studied piano with Alexander Goldenweiser. During his student years he took instruction in composition privately with Nikolai Zhilyayev.
After his 1911 graduation from the Conservatory, Samuel Feinberg launched a career as a piano soloist while writing music on the side. Before he was sent off to war, Feinberg met Scriabin, who praised his pianism. His active participation in the Russian military ended abruptly when he became gravely ill and had to spend the remainder of the war recuperating in Moscow.
In 1922, Samuel Feinberg joined the faculty at the Moscow Conservatory, holding this post until his death. After this appointment, he revived his career as a pianist, gave piano recitals in Russia in programmes emphasising new Russian music, and toured Europe in the late 1920's. He performed all L.v. Beethoven's piano sonatas and the complete set of J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, as well as Chopin and Schumann. His interpretations of the keyboard works of J.S. Bach, L.v. Beethoven, Chopin, Scriabin, and others were startlingly original - he typically offered quite a different approach to each composer's music.
When his composition teacher, Zhilyayev, who had also become his music editor, was arrested during Stalin's reign of terror, Samuel Feinberg had to rein in the progressive music style he had evolved in works like the Sixth (1923) and Seventh (1924-1925) piano sonatas and the First Piano Concerto (1931-1932). After 1936, his music became more conservative, though it retained a subtlety of expression and often divulged a penchant for imaginative contrapuntal techniques. He felt it wise not to seek publication of some of his more progressive works, like the Seventh Sonata, which would not appear in print until the 1970's.
In 1951 Samuel Feinberg's health declined from as the result of a heart ailment, but he remained active as a pianist and composer for his remaining days. He died in Moscow, largely an obscure figure in a global sense, however his reputation within Russia placed him among the piano giants of his age - Vladimir Sofronitsky, Goldenweiser, Grigory Ginzburg, and Heinrich Neuhaus.
Samuel Feinberg was better known in his day as a pianist than a composer, but it is as a composer that he is known to posterity. He produced a substantial output of piano, vocal, and chamber works, but was generally reluctant to promote his compositions in the many concerts he gave. His early music is conservative in outlook, but he later became experimental in the use of serial techniques, only to return to a more traditional though individual style later on. His piano music was influenced mainly by Chopin and Scriabin in its fluidity and enhanced tonality. He also transcribed some of Bach's organ works to piano