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Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor (1884) [42:05]
Symphony No. 1 in E minor (1874) [33:45]
Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Sanderling
rec. Studio of West Siberian Radio, Novosibirsk, Russia. 10-14 September 2006.
NAXOS 8.570336 [75:50]
Experience Classicsonline

This disc is the first in a promised series from Naxos of the complete orchestral music of Taneyev - also including the four cantatas. With the discs by Polyansky of the four symphonies, the Piano Concerto on Toccata and the re-release of the composer’s quartets and quintets from Northern Flowers - not to mention the promised quartets on Naxos - we seem to be living in a golden age of recordings for Taneyev enthusiasts. Even five years ago one would not have imagined competing discs of the symphonies - see Rob Barnett’s reviews of  the Polyansky versions of Symphonies 1 & 3 (see review) and 2 & 4 (see review).
On this disc the third symphony precedes the first, but we will follow the usual order. The Symphony No. 1 was written when the composer was 18 years old and already shows complete mastery of form and orchestration. It also shows that while influenced by his teacher Tchaikovsky, Taneyev was already developing a technical and musical personality of his own. The opening movement is quite serious and betrays the interest in counterpoint and linear development in general for which the composer would become known. Sanderling handles this movement in a more relaxed manner than Polyansky and I think it loses something therefore. While definitely Russian in feeling it also has a slight melancholy that reminds one of the composer’s contemporary Elgar. The Andantino is more like something from a Tchaikovsky ballet, but again there’s a lot more attention to counterpoint. Here Sanderling provides a smooth flow to the movement that is very appropriate. The scherzo is in mazurka rhythm and even the trio never completely strays from this time-signature. The last movement shows the young composer moving further and further away from his great teacher. In addition to the contrapuntal element already discussed, there is a big folk influence here. The development is well carried out, but overdone. Again I felt that Polyansky made it more exciting than Sanderling does.
The Symphony No. 3 was written ten years later and is the work of a fully mature composer with the contrapuntal and folkloric elements integrated with a full technical equipment and an occasional sense of whimsy. Sanderling does a good job of bringing out this particular aspect. The opening allegro is reminiscent of the same movement in the Symphony No. 2 and we see a very capable development of the basic material with subsidiary lines developed from the same. There are also serene moments along with serious and folksy. The scherzo shows wonderful writing for the winds followed by a charming trio deriving from the scherzo material. Most original is the slow movement. This continues the serenity of the previous trio with occasional Schumannesque undercurrents. I was reminded of the description of the composer at home in Bruno Walter’s autobiography. Like it’s counterpart in Symphony No. 2 the last movement is folk-inspired, almost dance-like, but with canonic devices to produce a segmental development that is very effective. Sanderling is not as forceful as Polyansky in this last movement.
Obviously, the main basis of comparison for this disc is the counterpart recording on Chandos. Polyansky is a more forceful conductor and has the benefit of better recording. Sanderling brings out more of the inner Taneyev in his performances - a side of the composer better-known to those familiar with his chamber music. In terms of recording the engineers at Chandos do a much better job - witness the high winds in the last movement of the Symphony No. 1. These are almost screeching on the Naxos disc, but not a problem on the Chandos. There are also reverberation problems on the Naxos recording. Similar issues occur with the Symphony No. 3. It must be pointed out that the Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra plays with a lot of enthusiasm and that their string section is first rate. Their winds are good too when the engineers allow them. Actually, the true fan will want to have both the Polyansky and Sanderling discs, others more concerned with recording quality will choose the former and those with budgetary concerns the latter.
William Kreindler

see also review by Dan Morgan



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