This is the long-delayed successor to
one of Polyansky's most successful Chandos offerings. In 2002
there appeared CHAN
9998 with his recordings of Taneyev's symphonies 2 and 4.
This is a conductor who when tackling Glazunov has opted for
flaccidity over fire. The difference in Glazunov can be
heard when you catch up with the simply magnificent Serebrier/RSNO
Warner recording of Glazunov 4 and 7. In the case of Taneyev
2 and 4 however Polyansky seemed transformed and came away with
two performances of the utmost conviction and dramatic moment.
The present disc, completing the Taneyev symphony canon, appeared
on the scene in the same month as Toccata's CD of the incomplete
The First Symphony is a student
work likely to have been written as an exercise for his teacher
Tchaikovsky. Without being quite the tribute piece that Arensky
wrote for the elder composer it is certainly indebted to Tchaikovsky
especially in the imposing brass work. A chattering motif in
the splendidly lively second movement recalls Tchaikovsky's
Fourth Symphony; the idiom must have been well nigh inescapable.
The finale recalls Balakirev's Overture on Russian Themes
at first but rises to a stormily imposing and sturdily brassy
climax. It has the required 'surface' but in this dark dénouement
one misses the ineluctable inevitability of Tchaikovsky.
The Third Symphony - dedicated
to Arensky - was written after a process of abnegation from
Tchaikovskian emotionality. Indeed the two composers traded
disparagement. Taneyev had opted for a more stern and less passionate
approach rejecting Tchaikovsky's balletic tendencies in the
symphonies. Even so the chirpy writing for winds in the Allegro
Vivace (II) starts magically even if it later becomes Brahmsian-heavy
- the German composer's First Symphony perhaps. The Intermezzo
is touching and for all Taneyev's rejections his style cannot
resist the magnetic pull of Tchaikovsky. This is delightful
music and will please you if you are drawn to Kalinnikov, Arensky
or Balakirev. The finale is given a dynamite blast by Polyansky
which has a Glazunov-style celebratory charge. This is not the
academic primer we might have feared. Polyansky clearly believes
firmly in this music and it shows.
The notes are again by David Nice, one
of the leading authorities on Russian music.
Essential to Russian music completists
and to the admirers of the symphonies of Glazunov, Kalinnikov,
Arensky and Balakirev but be ready for a sterner twist to the
writing. Grand recordings in every sense and I cannot imagine
Polyansky being easily surpassed in these extremely rare revivals.
Time for him to tackle the Shaporin symphony and the Steinberg
symphonies that Järvi never got round to recording.