With his throaty Montagnana-school cello, Yosif Feigelson gave a multidisciplinary treatment of works primarily by Soviet Jewish composers at the Algonquin Club yesterday under the sponsorship of the Ballets Russes Arts Initiative. Before each piece, Feigelson showed informal photographs of the composers, sometimes with him, sometimes with Rostropovich and Shostakovich. Feigelson commented on how the featured composers related to their heritage.
The outliers in his program of Soviet composers were J. S. Bach and Benjamin Britten. Feigelson began reverently with the Sarabande from Bach’s Suite in D Minor, No. 2. The Gigue had one miniscule troublesome spot, but it hardly detracted from the overall impact of the cellist’s depth of understanding and his virtuosity. The excerpts that Feigelson played from Suite No.1, Op. 72, written in Britten’s mid career (1964), were melancholy, playful, bouncy and light, contemplative, nostalgic, and empathetic. A delight of a performance. Who cannot enjoy everything Benjamin Britten wrote, when played well?
Alfred Schnittke’s Madrigal in memory of Oleg Kagan, used major sevenths for an effect unsettling, moving from a quiet, slow elegy to rage, ending in a prolonged dissonance. By contrast, a melodic Etude by Samuil Senderey followed; he is known for his Yiddish theater music.
Bonia Shur, a childhood friend of the Feigelson family in Latvia, became an officer in the Red Army, from which he made a dramatic escape, became a Zionist, then moved to Los Angeles in 1960. Six years later, he was chosen to participate in the music to the movie “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” He dedicated a calm, beautiful Meditation to Feigelson.
Anna Winestein, historian of art and theater of the Russian and Soviet Empires and co-founder/executive director of the Ballets Russes Arts Initiative put all this together. She is curator of the exhibition Migration + Memory: Jewish Artists of the Russian and Soviet Empires from the Vladimir and Vera Torchilin Collection, running at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, MA, until January 28. On view are paintings, drawings, prints, posters, and illustrated books, as well as objects created by nearly 50 different artists.
The Migration + Memory series is presenting a panel discussion on Young Russian-Jewish Americans in the Arts on December 21st at District Hall, 75 Northern Avenue, Boston, with Anastasia Seifetdinova, a pianist born in Ukraine, who is currently on the faculty of New England Conservatory; Zhanna Alkhazova, soprano opera singer from Moscow who made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2014, and has performed throughout the US, Canada, Italy, Ireland and Russia; Mark Kelner, a visual artist and filmmaker based in Washington, DC. Born in the US from parents who had just emigrated from Russia, he is currently showing work at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York; and Winestein, a Visiting Researcher at Boston University and author of The Magical Reality of Alexandre Benois (BPL, 2005), and co-author/co-editor of The Ballets Russes and the Art of Design (Monacelli Press, 2009).
Bettina A. Norton, emerita editor of the Intelligencer, is a retired museum professional. She has published widely in her field, American historical prints, and in later years, was editor and publisher of The Beacon Hill Chronicle. She has been attending classical music concerts “since the waning years of World War II.”