Alexander A. Krein


Alexander Krein was born in the Staraya Ruza region of Moscow in 1883. He and his five other siblings were taught Jewish folk and instrumental music by his father who was a well known Klezmer musician and poet. In 1908 he began his formal musical education at the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied cello and composition. Shortly after finishing his degree, Krein was appointed a professor of music there, and he became a prominent figure in the school of modern Russian composition. Krein’s early work was deeply influenced by the music of Scriabin and Greig, as well as French impressionists Ravel and Debussy. Krein’s first composition in the Jewish national style was Jewish Sketches, after which he became increasingly involved in the activities of the Moscow branch of the Society for Jewish Folk Music. Krien, like the other members of the Folk Music Society, was searching for a uniquely Jewish ethos that would define the emerging Jewish national style. Krein found inspiration in the musical traditions of the synagogue. He utilized melodic improvisations and recitative rhythms found in Eastern European liturgical music to imbue his compositions with a uniquely Jewish character. Krein’s style continually developed in response to new influences and trends in the Russian Jewish school. Krien also composed a large collection of romances and songs set to the texts of famous Russian and European poets such as Balmont, Bialik, Efros and others. In response to the Soviet ban on Jewish music, Krein returned to composing music in the modern Russian style. One of the most noted works from this period was his ballet, Laurentsia.  

"Hebrew Sketches" (Esquisses Hebraiques), Op. 12, by Alexander A. Krein, performed by the Vlach Quartet, Prague.