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Ivanovich TANEYEV (1856-1915)
String Quintet in G major, Op. 14 (1901) [37:00]
String Quintet in C Major, Op. 16 (1904) [42:01]
Piano Quintet in G minor, Op.30 (1911) [48:14]
The S. I. Taneyev Quartet (Vladimir Ovcharek (violin I), Vissarion
Solovyev (violin II), Grigory Lutzky (viola), Josef Levinzon (cello));
Yuri Kramarov (viola) (op.16); Beynus Morozov (cello) (op.14); Tamara
Fidler (piano) (op.30)
rec. St. Petersburg Recording Studio, 1980-1981 (CD 1) 1968 (CD
NORTHERN FLOWERS NF/PMA 9944/9945 [79:01 + 48:14]
Taneyev’s three quintets each mark an advance in the development of his chamber music. The first string quintet (2 cellos) shows him exploring new contrapuntal possibilities as compared with the previous quartets and trios and also using the cellos almost as a separate unit of the ensemble. The second quintet (2 violas) is pivotal to the composer’s output evincing a new synthesis of emotion and technique. The Piano Quintet goes even further, as we will see later.
In spite of the clever instrumentation of the first quintet this work is considered by some critics to be inferior to many of Taneyev’s other chamber works. I think the reason for this may be that it is slighter and more carefree than is usual for the composer. It is also true that the first movement sometimes seems as if it is treading water, as it were, though it has many emotional moments and is not lacking in forward motion. The middle movement is not a slow movement proper, but an interlude full of nervous, searching elements, reminiscent of Elgar in his similar moods. The last movement is a set of ten variations, leading to a triple fugue. Many of the variations are quite beautiful and the use of the cellos is affecting. Unfortunately, the triple fugue itself is not so exciting.
The place of the Quintet in C Major in the composer’s output has already been mentioned. The first movement demonstrates the afore-mentioned new emotional depth in the first theme, followed by a tragic second theme. Both are consummately developed. The slow movement is serene and quite touching - a true gem, with an even more poignant middle section - the whole again demonstrating masterful development. The following allegretto is a scherzando based on material from the first movement, increasing in attractiveness as it progresses. The last movement is somewhat similar to the corresponding movement of the G major Quintet - it is also a triple fugue - this time on themes from the earlier movements. But it has much more momentum and clarity of statement than is found in the first quintet.
The Piano Quintet, along with cantata At the Reading of a Psalm, represent the apex of Taneyev’s works. Its four movements show the composer’s energy and imagination at their highest throughout the piece. The first movement builds on the structural and emotional accomplishments of the C major Quintet, with a mysterious introduction leading to a main section that is developed with infinite variety. There is a beautiful violin solo leading to a final statement of the opening material.
In the scherzo the piano is at first very prominent, giving way to some of the composer’s most unusual string sonorities. The trio is charming, reminiscent of Tchaikovsky and maybe Debussy. The return of the scherzo is extremely vigorous. The largo third movement is a very original passacaglia in which the composer extracts every possibility from the form. There is a power here reminiscent of the Oresteia Prelude or parts of the Symphony No. 2. The finale alternates violent and gentle emotions before leading to a mighty finish, almost unequalled in the composer’s output.
Those who already own Taneyev’s quartets and trios as recorded by the Taneyev Quartet will naturally want to add these discs to their collection. There is another recording of the G-Major Quintet by the Amsterdam Chamber Music Society and several recordings of the Piano Quintet (Tigran Alikhanov (piano), Moscow String Quartet, Melodiya MELCD1001240; with Piano Trio Op. 22, Vadim Repin, Ilya Gringolts, Lynn Harrell, Nobuko Imai, Mikhail Pletnev DG - E4775419; Lilya Zilberstein piano / Dora Schwarzberg violin / Lucy Hall violin / Nora Romanoff-Schwarzberg viola / Jorge Bosso cello Recorded live: Lugano, June 2006 EMI - 3892412; Treasures of Russian Chamber Music The Amsterdam Chamber Music Society Brilliant Classics 93081; Maria Yudina Edition with Piano Quartet op.20 Beethoven Quartet Maria Yudina (piano) Brilliant Classics Historic Russian Archive Edition 8909) for those who want more modern recordings, but I think that for many Taneyev without the Taneyev Quartet is hard to imagine.
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