Raised in Moscow, he entered the Moscow Conservatory and studied under Alexander Goldenweiser. He also studied composition privately under Nikolai Zhilyayev. He graduated from the Conservatory in 1911, after which he embarked upon a career as a solo pianist whilst composing on the side. Memorably, he was the first pianist to perform the complete The Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach in concert in the USSR. However, he was soon sent to fight in the First World War for Russia until he abruptly became ill and was discharged. In 1922 he joined the faculty at the Conservatory, relaunching his pianistic career. By 1930, due to the political unrest in Stalin Russia, Feinberg was forbidden to leave the country, in part due to the fact that he was Jewish, except for two trips, to Vienna in 1936 and to Brussels in 1938. For this reason he is generally not well known outside of Russia. Feinberg was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946.
Feinberg never married, but lived with his brother, a painter.
He is most remembered today for his complete recording of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier and many transcriptions. He also composed 3 Piano Concertos, a dozen piano sonatas as well as fantasias and other works for the instrument. Pianist Tatiana Nikolaeva said that each of his sonatas was a 'poem of life.' Feinberg has been called "A musical heir to Scriabin," who heard the young pianist play his fourth sonata and praised it highly.
Honours and awards
Compositions for solo piano
- Op. 20: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major (1931)
- Op. 36: Piano Concerto No. 2 (1944)
- Op. 44: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor (1947)
For Piano and Voice
- Op. 12: Violin Sonata No. 1 (1912, incomplete)
- Op. 46: Violin Sonata No. 2 (1955–56)
- Sokolov, M. G., editor (1990). Pianists in Conversation (First ed.). Moscow.
- Sitsky, Larry (1994). Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-garde, 1900-1929. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 183. ISBN 9780313267093.
- Sirodeau, Christopher. "Samuil Feinberg". International Feinberg-Skalkottas Society. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
- Cummings, Robert. "Samuel Feinberg". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
- The Great Soviet Encyclopedia 1970-1979 (Third ed.). Samuil Feinberg.
- Bogat, Leni. "Samuil Feinberg (1890-1962): Russian Pianist and Composer". Forte-Piano-Pianissimo.Com. Retrieved 4 January 2016.