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Sergey Ivanovich TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Symphony No. 1 in E minor (1872) [28.30]
Symphony No. 3 in D minor (1884) [35.04]
Russian State Symphony Orchestra/Valeri Polyansky
rec. Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, June 2004. DDD
world premiere recordings
CHANDOS CHAN 10390 [63.48] 


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 Taneyev piano concerto. 

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. 

Rob Barnett


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