TANEYEV (1856-1915) Complete String Quartets – Volume 1
String Quartet No.1 in B flat minor Op.4 (1890) [34:29]
String Quartet No.3 in D minor Op.7 (1896) [26:54]
Carpe Diem String
rec. Mees Hall, Capital University, Columbus, Ohio, May 2006 NAXOS 8.570437 [61:39]
not just that Taneyev’s Quartets are among his strongest works – they’re
stylistically intriguing as well. There’s a vein of proto-modernity
about them that keeps one constantly alive as to his harmonic
directions. And the broad span of the Op. 4 quartet – written
in five movements – allows for considerable variety. Though
it carries an early opus number Taneyev was in his mid-thirties
when he wrote it so it’s hardly a child of his youth.
a strongly argued work, long on expressive gestures. It opens
with a long Andante espressivo, moves on to a Largo and just
as one thinks that Slavic gloom couldn’t get gloomier, at least
in superficial form - it’s not actually a gloomy work - we confront
a brisk Presto. Then another slow-ish movement, an Intermezzo,
and finally a vivacious and decidedly giocoso conclusion. The
highlight of the five-movement Quartet is the Andante, a tremendously
warm affair whose gestures are never superficial or generic.
If there is a fault, and I think this is Taneyev’s responsibility
more than that of his interpreters, it’s that the thickness
of the writing – that old line about Taneyev being Brahmsian
in his scoring – can lead to a rather clotted, ultimately unfocused
sense of direction. After the depth of expression here the quartet
lightens and brightens incrementally; the finale is certainly
delightful but it’s not as distinctive as the first two movements
Third Quartet was completed six years later. It’s in two movements,
the first a standard Allegro and the second a Theme and Variations.
This is another work that advances the Russian quartet stylistically
beyond Tchaikovskian models. And in this work it’s the very
extensive second movement, all seventeen and a half minutes
of it, that bears the biggest weight in this respect. The dainty
classical theme is a prelude for an array of multi-variegated
variations – which run from the obviously folkloric, to intimations
of Borodin, echoes of Tchaikovsky, a beautiful, indeed ravishing,
lied and the slow, gentle relapse into repose and quietude.
It took some daring to construct so big a movement and equally
so to end it so reflectively.
Carpe Diem String Quartet plays with firmness and commitment.
They can phrase very plaintively but sometimes their corporate
sonority comes across as rather brittle. That said I quite took
to the husky-toned violist Korine Fujiwara. One thing that I
think needs to be investigated further is how a quartet of expressive
tonalists would handle some of the more clotted writing; here
things do sound a touch unfocused from time to time, and the
First Quartet in particular could do with a greater delineation
of voicings to alleviate mushy writing. Otherwise a welcome
offering that shows Taneyev in emphatic and questing compositional
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