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Sergei Ivanovich TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Overture to Oresteia Op. 6 (1889) [20:48]
Oresteia, Act III: Entr’acte: The Temple of Apollo at Delphi (1894) [5:10]
Adagio in C-major (1875) [5:54]
Overture on a Russian Theme (1882) [17:26]
Cantata on Pushkin’s “Exegi Monumentum” (1880) [4:26]
Canzona for Clarinet and Orchestra (1883) [6:21]
Overture in D minor (1875) [14:48]
Stanislav Jankovsky (clarinet)
Novosibirsk Chamber Choir/Igor Judin
Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Sanderling
rec. Studio of West-Siberian Radio, 1-15 September 2007. DDD
Liner-notes by Anastasia Belina
NAXOS 8.570584 [74:53]
Experience Classicsonline

This is the second volume of Thomas Sanderling’s promised complete set of the orchestral music of Taneyev. It includes three mature works that are well-known. We also get to hear four earlier works that the composer never allowed to be published, and which, like a number of others, were only released to the world in the 1950s. This is a shame because all four demonstrate that Taneyev was already a notable composer very early in his career.

Two of the works date from the composer’s student years. The overture in D-minor was his graduation piece and won an award. It is rather somber, with a Tchaikovskian lyricism combined with an underlying sense of unease. The central section features the woodwinds and is beautifully developed. At this point (19 years old) he still has trouble getting everything he wants from his basic material, but that would come later. However the devopment of this material into a cheerful finale is quite skillful. Also from 1875 is the Adagio in C-major. This is a lyrical work of great songfulness, with intimations of future vocal pieces. Tchaikovsky and Mozart hang over it to a degree, but its sheer beauty is the composer’s own. Why he would not want to publish it is a mystery.

Five years later Taneyev’s status as a mature composer was already assured enough for him to be asked to write the Cantata on Pushkin’s “Exegi Monumemtum”. This is a setting of the first two verses of the poem of that name and was written for the unveiling of the Pushkin Monument in Moscow. It is quite simple, but evocative of the poet’s themes of the impermanence of political life when contrasted with the permanence of art. It has some beautiful polyphony and orchestration. Two years later Taneyev wrote a much large work that is one of his very few with a folk basis. The Overture on a Russian Theme takes the composer’s usual compositional method of developing segments of one theme and applies it to a theme from a folk collection compiled by Rimsky-Korsakov. The entire theme itself is hardly heard at all, but parts of it constantly succeed each other in a variety of different moods, ranging from the dramatic to the lyrical. The woodwinds are skillfully used throughout - a frequent feature of the composer’s works. While the slower middle section gets a little too involved, it is succeeded by an excellent sequential passage on strings that leads to the finale - a glorification of the original theme. This work compares well with similar pieces by the composer’s contemporaries and should be better known.

The Canzona and the Oresteia works were published by Taneyev and have been popular in Russia ever since. The Canzona is one of the composer’s few concerted works and is both virtuosic and tender with a middle section reminiscent of the clarinet works of Weber. The wistful end could only be Taneyev. There is a competing recording of the piece on Naxos with Vytautas Sondeckis, but I found Jankovsky’s version preferable for its liveliness. Taneyev arranged the piece for cello and piano and it has been recorded in this form several times, including by Rostropovich (see review).

Soon after beginning The Oresteia, his only opera, the composer started turning the material into a symphonic poem, which he published as a separate work, and then went on to compose the full opera, premiered five years or so after the symphonic poem. The poem is based on five themes representing various aspects of the Aeschylus play and the exposition of the themes is extremely dramatic. The composer later occasionally gets carried away by the violence of the music for the Furies, but those sections representing the feelings of Orestes are always well done. This leads to the highlight of the piece - the judgment that Orestes is innocent of matricide by Athena and the Areopagus and the final apotheosis of Athenian justice. The major competition for Sanderling in this piece is provided by Vladimir Ashkenazy and Neeme Järvi. I found Sanderling more gripping than Ashkenazy (see review) and with a better sense of the overall work. With Järvi there is slightly more excitement and a slightly better recording, but Sanderling has the cost advantage.

The Act 3 Entr’acte from the opera proper concerns Orestes’ journey to Apollo’s temple at Delphi to find out how to rid himself of the Furies. The main musical element here is Apollo’s shimmering theme as he banishes the Furies from his temple and sends Orestes to Athens for his eventual pardon. This section shows a tighter development than the appearance of the same material in the symphonic poem. It was also recorded by Ashkenazy and more excitingly by Svetlanov (see review).

In comparing this disc with the first volume of the series, Symphonies 1 and 3, recorded a year before this one, several developments are obvious (see review). The first is that Thomas Sanderling has a much better control over the orchestra and that the ragged playing that afflicted sections of the earlier disk is gone. His ability to alternate between dramatic and lyrical is really first rate. The second is that the orchestra seems to have accommodated itself to the music to a greater degree. The brass and percussion are exemplary in the Oresteia poem and the woodwinds are a highlight in almost every piece. Finally, the engineers seem to have mastered the Studio of West-Siberian Radio and acoustics are no longer a problem. All of this makes for a superior disc. There are also exemplary notes by Anastasia Belina. One can have no hesitation in recommending this disc not only to Taneyev lovers, but as an example of the range of creativity of a composer still far from receiving his due in the general history of music.

William Kreindler

see also review by Dan Morgan 



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