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Sergei TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Concert Suite for Violin and Orchestra Op. 28 (1919) [42:24]: (I Prelude (Grave) [7:03]; II Gavotte (Allegro moderato) [5:55]; III Fairy tale (Andantino) [9:26]; IV Tema con variazioni [13:23]: (Tema (Andantino) [0:57]; Variazione finale e coda [3:56]; Var. I (Allegro moderato) [1:09]; Var. II (Allegro energico) [1:27]; Var. III (Tempo di Valse); Var. V (Presto scherzando) [0:50]; Var. IV Fuga doppia (Allegro molto) [1:44]; Var. VI (Tempo di Mazurka. Allegro con fuoco) [1:25]); V Tarantella (Presto) [6:34])
Entr'acte (The Temple of Apollo at Delphi) (1895) [5:23]
Oresteya Overture (1889) [16:48]
Pekka Kuusisto, violin
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
rec. House of Culture (Suite), Finlandia Hall (Entr’acte; Overture), Helsinki May 2000. DDD
ONDINE ODE 9590 [64:57]
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The Concert Suite was completed in 1919 and written for Leopold Auer - a violinist well known to the Russian composer Taneyev. The two had given recitals together in their early careers.

Taneyev’s is a fully rounded romantic voice acknowledging the great classical masters - especially Beethoven. Of course he can also be playful - is it Tchaikovsky we hear in the Gavotte. Bach is glimpsed in the Prelude and in the grave introduction to the Fairy Tale (tr. 3). The Suite is a very successful work full of strong invention, fascinatingly blending Russian folk culture filtered through Tchaikovsky. Nevertheless it has the manner of a major romantic concerto of the late 19th century.

You may be tempted to write this work off unheard simply because it is a suite including variations; that would be a mistake. At approaching three quarters of an hour it is neither a piece of virtuoso fluff nor an overblown ballet. Think more in terms of an entrancingly fey blend of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, the Tchaikovsky suites (especially the Third) and Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole. Kuusisto is simply magnificent, rock steady in tone, playful and sensitive and he is recorded with unflinching immediacy which is not to say that he overpowers the orchestra. Everything is rendered with a completely agreeable clarity and impact. There have been other versions although none are currently available. Oistrakh’s once coupled on EMI Matrix with Rostropovich’s HMV Miaskovsky concerto is still worth tracking down but Kuusisto and Ondine have nothing to fear from that quarter.

Taneyev’s opera on the Oresteya was written between 1887 and 1894 and premiered at the Mariinsky in October 1895. It has been recorded and was first issued on LP by Deutsche Grammophon (DG 2709 097) in 1979 in the same month as Paliashvili’s ‘Absalom and Eteri’. Olympia then reissued it in 1985 on a 2 CD set. This was in a version by soloists and the Chorus and Orchestra of the Belorussian State Opera and Ballet Theatre conducted by Tatyana Kolomyzeva. One of these days I will get to hear that recording but by the look of things not any time soon. In any event two orchestral segments have gone on to live a negligible life separate from the stage work: Agamemnon’s March (Act II) and The Temple of Apollo (Act III). The Temple movement has great nobility and is done here in full splendour. The Oresteya Overture is not an operatic prelude. It was written in 1889 in the middle of Taneyev’s work on the opera. It has a burly and deeply impressive majesty with stunning echoes of swirling and tormented late Tchaikovsky along the way. Gentler inspirations can be heard in the harp-led prayer at 9:05 and onwards into a shimmering finale that recalls Mussorgsky’s Dawn on the Neva. Note-writer Jaakko Haapaniemi refers to the work’s ‘brooding pathos’; I cannot put it better.

This is one of a series of twenty CDs freshly packaged in new slip cases to mark Ondine’s twentieth anniversary. The original discs have been selected from the Finnish company’s substantial back catalogue.

This is serious music without severity and full of appealing humanity. It is performed with stunning virtuosity and complete mastery.

Rob Barnett

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