Sergei Ivanovich TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Sonata for Violin and Piano (1911) [21:20]
Theme and Variations in C major (1874) [11:31]
Repose (Elegy) (1880) [3:06]
Scherzo in D minor (1874-75) [2:37]
Scherzo in G minor (1874-75) [1:09]
Scherzo in E flat minor (1873-74) [3:12]
Scherzo in C major (1874-75) [3:17]
Scherzo in F major (1874-75) [1:35]
Prelude in F major (1894-95) [2:47]
Quadrille (1879) [7:55]
Andantino semplice (1876-78?) [4:46]
Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor, Op. 29 (1910) [6:35]
Romance, Op. 26, No. 6: Stalaktitï (arr. for violin and piano by Leonid Feigin) (1908) [2:50]
Ivan Peshkov (violin)
Olga Solovieva (piano)
rec. April 2005 (Sonata and Romance) at Mosfilm Ton-Studio, Moscow, and December 2008 (remainder) at the Moscow Theatre and Concert Centre
NAXOS 8.557804 [72:41]

I’m not sure why ‘Western’ violinists don’t programme the Taneyev Violin sonata more than they do - and almost all don’t. It has spruce and upholstered ideas and its Schumann-cum-Brahmsian axis offers plenty of opportunities for expressive unveiling of its melodic contours. Perhaps some fiddle players shy away from its late Romanticism, and given that they can play, say, Brahms’s Op. 108 perhaps they find it unnecessary to delve further, much less into Russian romantic waters. That’s a pity, and fortunately Russian players are more inclined to popularise their own repertoire, as Feigin and Politovsky, both questing players in this respect, have both shown over the years.

Now we can add Ivan Peshkov to the list. His playing is polished and refined but he doesn’t stint the fire when it’s called for. So, for example, he is closer to the more incendiary Politkovsky (RCD 16279) than the more leisurely and affectionate Feigin (RCD 16253) in the work, though arguably he thereby loses tonal and timbral shading especially in the slow movement, where Feigin finds that much more sense of fantasy and colour. Still, the drone effects and rippling piano in the Minuetto are most adeptly done, its folk-derived inflexions standing proud and tall, and very neatly pointed. The finale is the most businesslike and Brahmsian of the four movements. Taneyev took a leaf out of the Master’s book and has the confidence to end contemplatively too.

The piano works offer a sequence of mainly dance-based pleasures but actually starts with the relatively expansive Theme and Variations in C major, written in 1874. Pretty clearly patterned on Tchaikovsky’s own Op.19 Theme and Variations it nevertheless offers up some personalised pleasures of its own. Taneyev’s melodic fecundity was considerable and this work is no exception. Rather like the Sonata, which was written much later of course, it too harkens back to Schumann though here the influence was very much more recent and ‘living’. The series of small scale Scherzi that follow also cleave to the Schumannesque and also to Chopin. Olga Solovieva plays the D minor Scherzo with defiant and gutsy strength, whilst the C major flows strongly but with a certain brusqueness. Again she’s a hard-hitting player – perhaps, here, rather too much so. Repose is almost defiantly Chopinesque. The Quadrille is exciting and foot-tapping, whilst the Andantino semplice is a touch Brahmsian. Meanwhile the Op.29 Prelude and Fugue represents Taneyev’s own very romanticised and personalised brand of contrapuntal Bachian writing. The Fugue is skittish and fulsome, unleashing a restless stream of romanticist credentials. As a complete contrast there’s a delicate envoi in the form of the Romance, Op. 26, No. 6: Stalaktitï arranged by Leonid Feigin for violin and piano.

It ends a bipartite disc of real pleasures. Both players are certainly communicative exponents and have been adroitly recorded.

Jonathan Woolf