Alan Feinberg Explores 16th Century Keyboard On Basically Bull: Keyboard Works Of John Bull & Others

Feinberg unearths the strange genius of Renaissance renegade John Bull for the first time, on the modern Steinway Grand


LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (June 25, 2013) — Steinway & Sons Record Label releases pianist Alan Feinberg’s new disc Basically Bull: Keyboard Works of John Bull & Others [digital available June 4th, CD available June 25th]. Alan Feinberg performs some of the most avant-garde works for the “virginal” — a prototype of sorts of the piano—from John Bull, William Byrd, and Orlando Gibbons, among others. These works are recorded for the first time on a modern piano.

Full of complex contrapuntal lines that tie fingers in knots, this experimental and dynamic pianism of early England balked in the face of conventional music at the time. Bull’s works were not born of genteel or pithy dance tunes, nor were they meant to express the flowering charms of the gentlewoman of society. Described as a “vexatious” human being, Bull fled England in 1613 in fear of being persecuted for “his incontinence, fornication, adultery and other grievous crimes” (according to Bull himself.)

He was a compositional renegade who pushed the boundaries in every sense of the word. With a penchant for writing near-impossible melodic spiraling lines that demanded dexterity and diligence, Bull provided, with a cohort of compelling keyboard composers, a folio of incredible and unearthed works.

The works included on Feinberg’s disc feature music from Orlando Gibbons, John Bull, Thomas Tomkins, John Redford, William Byrd and John Blitheman. These short pieces all embody the bold counterpoint, odd harmonies and embellished melodies that cast them aside from traditional repertoire. Bull’s Pavan in the Second Tone embodies the strange harmonic progression Bull was known for and his tune Galliard defies the average speed of fingers. Gibbons’ Fantasia is a lovely, tune that builds in a slow, meandering fugue-like way. Feinberg understands these works and their inherent irreverence.

He has blown the dust off of the manuscripts and unearthed them to breathe new life into these works, originally composed for the virginal. According to Feinberg, “Fashioning a group of these works to function in concert and translating them to the different timbre of the modern piano has been an exciting venture into the 16th/17th century avant-garde.” None of these works have ever been recorded on a modern piano.

Alan Feinberg is an experienced performer of both classical and contemporary music and is well known for recitals that pair old and new music. Basically Bull showcases his fascination and foray into the classic to unearth the contemporary.

Mr. Feinberg has received four Grammy® nominations and has recorded a wide range of American repertoire: four solo discs for Decca that survey American music and piano concertos by Milton Babbitt, Mel Powell, Andrew Imbrie, Kamran Ince, Morton Feldman, Paul Bowles, Amy Beach, Charles Ives, Leo Ornstein, Samuel Adler, Don Gilles, and Robert Helps. He received his fourth Grammy nomination for his recording of the Amy Beach Piano Concerto with the Nashville Symphony.

Mr. Feinberg has performed as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, London Philharmonia, Montreal Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and many others.

Mr. Feinberg frequently performs in Europe. Appearances include The Proms, Wigmore Hall, festivals in Edinburgh, Brescia Bergamo, Geneva, Budapest, and others. In 2013 he programmed and performed in a series of concerts showcasing American music in Russia: in June, for the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg and in September, in Moscow.

About Steinway & Sons
Since its founding in New York in 1853, Steinway & Sons has been considered the world's premier piano manufacturer. Known for their exceptional craftsmanship, Steinway & Sons pianos are built in one of two company-owned and operated factories: Astoria, New York and Hamburg, Germany. Steinway & Sons pianos are still constructed primarily by hand, using many of the techniques developed over 160 years ago. Today, Steinway & Sons also offers the Boston and Essex piano lines, Listen, a magazine for music and culture lovers, and the Steinway & Sons record label. For more information, visit

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Anthony Gilroy
Steinway & Sons
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