continues to provide a tremendous service to international chamber
music with an extensive variety of recordings. This year there
have been several valuable Naxos sets that I have especially
enjoyed: the string quartets of Schumann, Glazunov’s five novelettes
and string quintet from the Fine Arts, Malcolm Arnold’s works
for string quartet from the Maggini and his wind chamber music
from East Winds not to mention three volumes of Arnold Bax’s
violin and viola music.
members of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Carpe Diem are
quartet-in-residence at the Conservatory of Music at Capital
University. This disc is first volume of a projected complete
cycle from the Carpe Diem of the Taneyev quartets.
1866 Russian-born Sergey Taneyev entered the Moscow Conservatory
and later became a composition student of Tchaikovsky. He also
received piano tuition from Nikolay Rubinstein and graduated
with a gold medal for performance and composition. As a virtuoso
pianist he was entrusted by Tchaikovsky with the premières of
virtually all his scores for piano and orchestra. It seems that
Taneyev was the only composer from his circle from whom Tchaikovsky
sought critical appraisals of his scores. In 1881 he returned
to the Moscow Conservatory to undertake teaching duties and
in 1885 was appointed as Conservatory Director.
in the shadows for many years his music is rapidly gaining a
large group of enthusiasts. Taneyev champion, the eminent Russian
pianist; conductor and composer Mikhail Pletnev, interviewed
for The Independent in 2005, expressed the opinion that
Taneyev was, “…the key figure in Russian musical history…
He was the greatest polyphonist after Bach. And look who his
pupils were: Rachmaninov and Scriabin, and Prokofiev
who said he learned more about composing in one hour from Taneyev
than from all his other tutors at the Moscow Conservatory.”
is best remembered today as the composer of four symphonies
and his second cantata At the Reading of a Psalm (1914-15).
The cantata was his final work, completed just two years before
the Russian Revolution, and is receiving significant advocacy
from Pletnev. Very active in the field of chamber music, Taneyev
composed over twenty scores in the genre, including, according
to Grove Music Online nine string quartets between 1874-1911,
plus two incomplete quartets; two string quintets (1901 and
1904); a piano quartet (1906) and a piano quintet (1911).
can highly recommend a superb version of the Piano Quintet,
Op. 30 (1911) and Piano Trio, Op. 22 from a stellar
cast: Vadim Repin (violin), Ilya Gringolts (violin), Nobuko
Imai (viola), Lynn Harrell (cello) and Mikhail Pletnev (piano).
This was recorded in Vevey, Switzerland in 2003 and issued on
Deutsche Grammophon 477 5419. Another Taneyev release to receive
considerable acclaim is the live 2003 St. Petersburg, Russia
recording of At the Reading of a Psalm. This is
conducted by Pletnev and performed by the Russian National Orchestra,
the St. Petersburg State Academy Capella Choir, the Boys Choir
of the Glinka Choral College and soloists on PentaTone Classics
Super Audio CD PTC 5186 038.
wrote his five movement Quartet No. 1 in 1890, the year
after resigning as Conservatory Director to concentrate more
fully on his composing and counterpoint teaching. It seems that
the score was actually Taneyev’s fifth string quartet but the
first to be accorded an opus number.
the extended opening movement Andante espressivo the
Carpe Diems emphasise the dramatic, dark and restless aspects
with the writing showing only brief glimpses of beauty. The
lengthy Largo is mournful and affecting. This is not
love music but more evocative of heartbreaking pain and sadness
after the death of someone close. In the short, agitated and
nervy Presto the music scampers from corner to corner.
One welcomes a mood change in the Intermezzo which has
a wistful and restful quality with not a care in the world.
I especially enjoyed the high spirited and good natured playing
in the fifth and concluding movement.
Quartet No. 3 was written in 1886 and underwent revision
in 1896; a time that marked the recent blossoming of Taneyev’s
friendship with the eminent writer Leo Tolstoy. The score is
cast in two movements with the huge final movement being a theme
and eight variations. Lasting over seventeen minutes in performance
the closing movement must be one of the longest in the genre
of late-Romantic quartets.
with considerable assurance, the first movement Allegro has
an unsettling and uncertain quality with fascinating writing
that meanders from one idea to another. In the second movement
Taneyev has selected a light and attractive Mozartean theme.
I have attempted to identify each variation commencing from
point 1:01 where a broken love affair must surely have been
the motivation for the sorrowful first variation. The serious
and melodic second variation follows at 2:57 and from 4:14 the
players impress with the hectic and robust quality of the third
variation. The fourth at 5:13 has the character of a folk dance;
from 6:16 variation five is interpreted with tense undercurrents
of sorrow through the general good humour. The brisk and rhythmic
sixth variation at 9:17 contains an abundance of pizzicato.
At 11:31 the slow and gentle variation seven offers a memorable
and heartbreaking melody. In the dark and rich eighth and final
variation at 14:49 the low strings dominate with confident and
engineers are to be congratulated for the excellent sound quality.
I found the booklet notes, comprising two short essays, to be
adequate but the playing time of just over one hour seems ungenerous.
assured playing and impressive unity from the Carpe Diem the
disc is a valuable addition to Taneyev’s expanding discography.
For those new to the rewarding and accessible sound-world of
Taneyev this makes an excellent and inexpensive introduction
to his chamber music.