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WORKS: Elegy, Op. 16; Jewish Melody, Op. 43; Three Songs from the Ghetto; Poème-quatuor; Two Hebrew Songs, Op. 39; Jewish Sketches; Aria
PERFORMER: Adam Summerhayes (violin), Joseph Spooner (cello), Jonathan Powell (piano), Loré Lixenberg (mezzo-soprano), Elizabeth Drew (clarinet); Almira Quartet
Son of a klezmer musician in Novgorod, Alexander Krein studied at the Moscow Conservatory and was in the forefront of pre-Revolutionary Russian musical modernism. He was hailed in the early years of the Soviet Union as the ‘leading representative of the Russian Jewish School of composition’, but by the Thirties his race and subject matter had made him persona non grata with the Stalinist authorities and he had disappeared from prominence, his works only surfacing after the collapse of the USSR.


This ASV anthology neatly complements one that appeared a few years ago on Largo and which also featured Jonathan Powell.

Rachmaninov seems the major influence on the early Piano Preludes, but Krein soon found a personal idiom blent from Debussy, late-Romantic harmony and Jewish intonations: some of the solo pieces are reminiscent of Ernest Bloch, though the big single-movement string quartet may strike British listeners as more like Frank Bridge. At his best – as in the Jewish Sketches – his is a pithy, strongly individual voice and one cannot help but suspect Krein had some influence on Shostakovich.


Excellent performances – Loré Lixenberg is affectingly intense in the songs, and violinist Adam Summerhayes turns in the most moving performance of all in the Aria Krein wrote in memory of his brother, who committed suicide because of anti-Semitic pressure – though unfortunately in rather muddy sound. Calum MacDonald