Thursday, May 05, 2016

Felix Blumenthal (Ukraine composer) and his B Minor Sonata

Today, I played the very impressive and stormy Sonata-Fantasy for Piano in B Minor, Op. 36, by Ukrainian composer Felix Blumenfeld (1863-1931).

To be fair, Blumenfeld lived as a “Russian” and grew up during Czarist times, but it seems interesting to take note of his music today since he was born in Kovalevka, now part of the Ukraine, the subject of a lot of international attention (followed up on film) lately because of tragic aggression by Russia.
The work, running 25 minutes, pays reasonable heed to Sonata form so the word “fantasy” in the title seems unnecessary.

The style of the work reminds one of Rachmaninoff (the world of the Third Concerto) with a touch of Scriabin (ranging from the Sonata 5 to the Black Mass).  It is always tonal, but heavily chromatic (like Liszt) with lots of dissonance added (especially sixth and ninth chords). The music ranges from blazing chords to dazzling light passage work. The first movement has a second theme (going from 4/4 to ¾) that is pure Rachmaninoff.  But even the first movement ends in a triumphant B Major.  The second movement offers a lovely lullaby.  The finale has a slow introduction and transition to a “furioso” virtuoso toccata-like theme and will build up to a tremendous chordal conclusion, with some accidentals thrown in as dissonance on top of the final B Major Chord.

Would a young concert pianist who relished big romantic pieces (like Joseph Moog or David Kaplan) take on this work in live performances?
Wikipedia attribution link for Black Sea coast picture by Pirzkhgl, under CCSA 3.0

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