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Sergei Ivanovich TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Part songs (12) on Poems by Jakov Polonsky, Op. 27 (1910) [53.41]
Voronezh Chamber Choir/Oleg Shepel
Riben Sevostyanov (choirmaster)
(assisted in Nos. 11 and 12 by the Choir of the Voronezh Institute of the Arts)
rec. November 1992, Voronezh, Russia.
ETCETERA KTC 1158 [53.41]

Taneyev is called “the Russian Bach”* and Russian critics reportedly consider this work of his to be the third greatest piece of choral music ever written, right after Rachmaninov’s Vespers Op.37 and the Bach Mass in b. In the West, Bach enthusiasts might not completely agree; however, you owe it to yourself to hear this magnificent music, performed here with tremendous artistry and enthusiasm.
Taneyev was a teacher of Skriabin and Rachmaninov, musical godfather to Prokofiev, friend of Tolstoy, student and close friend of Tchaikovsky, and by all accounts one of the most widely beloved of all musical figures in Russia. He performed the Russian premiere of the “unplayable” Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto**. Taneyev’s death at the age of 59 in 1915, from pneumonia resulting from attending Skriabin’s funeral on a blustery winter day, came at a time when he was producing his greatest and most extroverted music. No doubt had he lived he would have produced large popular orchestral and choral masterworks and be much more widely appreciated.
Jakov Petrovich Polonsky (1819-1898) was a long-term good friend of Taneyev and provided him with texts for a number of his works. The completion of this work coincided with the tenth anniversary of Polonsky’s death. The titles of these poems are:
Four part settings:
Na Mogile (At the tombstone)
Vecher (Evening)
Razvalinu Bashni (A tower in ruins)
Posmotri, kakaya mgla (Look, such a mist!)
Five part settings
Na korable (On the boat)
Molitva (Prayer)
Iz veshchnosti musyka (Music heard from eternity)
Prometei (Prometheus)
Six and eight part settings:
Uvidal iz-za tuchi utyos (From behind the clouds)
Zvyozdy (Stars)
Po goram dve khmurykjtuchi (Two sullen clouds)
V dni, kogda nad sonnym morem (On a warm quiet day)
Barry Brenesal writing in Fanfare pointed out the extravagant difficulty of this music with its cruelly exposed entries on unprepared tones, and occasional passages in which up to four vocal parts actively pursue separate lines outside a strict polyphonic framework. It is no surprise then that the only recordings of the work are by extremely skilled professional or academic choruses. This recording by Pyotr Kondrashin, presumably from the same famous Russian musical family as Kyril, is excellent and allows the complex multiple vocal lines to be heard clearly while maintaining a realistic ambience. These works have also been recorded by Tönu Kaljuste conducting the Netherlands Chamber Choir on a Globe CD 5197. I have not heard this release, however this group has made some other fine recordings.
Paul Shoemaker
*Cellist Werner Thomas-Mifune calls him the “Russian Brahms” and upon hearing the Prelude and Fugue, Op. 29, one might call him the “Russian Gershwin”. Clearly a musician of many talents.
**The world premiere was given by Hans von Bülow in Boston, USA.


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