One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Buy through MusicWeb
for £13.50 postage paid World-wide.

Musicweb Purchase button


Sergey TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Complete String Quartets - Volume 1
String Quartet no.1 in B flat minor Op.4 (1890) [32:38]
String Quartet no.4 in A minor Op.11 (1900) [37:44]
The Taneyev Quartet
rec. 1977, St. Petersburg Recording Studio. ADD. Stereo

Experience Classicsonline

The Taneyev quartets are one of the many areas of the repertoire where Naxos have recently offered an alternative to the single choice that has long been on the market. The Naxos Carpe Diem Quartet recordings offer lithe, supple readings whereas these earlier Taneyev Quartet recordings are more in the traditional Russian vein of concentrated, focused and passionate playing. In terms of price, Naxos have the upper hand, but in all other respects these earlier recordings hold their own well in the face of the competition. Volume 1 was recorded in 1977, but you’d hardly know that to listen to it. I can’t say exactly how much cleaning up was done in the digital transfer process, but the sound is remarkably good for its time: clear, immediate and always involving.
Taneyev is a bit of a conundrum, and these works are in many ways representative of his art in that they are filled with paradoxes. Structure was Taneyev’s guiding principle, yet his music always lives for the moment. Like Tchaikovsky, Taneyev was a cosmopolitan rather than a nationalist, yet folk music intonations regularly colour the textures of these works. And how does one pin down the trajectory of his career? Whatever opus number is attached to a work, it always sounds mature and consummate, as if the music is the distillation of a lifetime’s work.
In the case of the First Quartet, both the number 1 and the low opus number (4) are misleading. He may have only been in his mid-20s when he wrote it, but he had already completed four string quartets that he had declined to publish. Given the name that the Taneyev Quartet chose for themselves, we can assume that this music was at the core of their repertoire, and they certainly sound like they know it intimately. The rubato and phrasing give the music a palpable sense of inner life, which elegantly balances the composer’s obsession with balanced structure. That into-the-string Russian sound is everywhere apparent. But it never disturbs the balance, nor does it diminish the wide dynamic range. Much of the music is in the lower register of the instruments, and the players achieve a rich, woody tone, which affords these passages an almost tactile quality. Soaring violin lines don’t come off quite as well; tuning is usually fine in the upper registers, but lightness of touch is at a premium. On the other hand, this slight coarseness with the lighter music often lends an attractive rustic quality. The opening of the finale, for example, comes across as a kind of village dance in the spirit of Dvorák. But even here the phrasing and dynamics are skilfully controlled to both structure and propel the music.
If there is one aspect of Taneyev’s art that can be perceived to develop and mature over the course of his career it is his use of form. Taneyev was unusual among Russian composers in planning the structure of works in advance, weighing sections and lengths, and finely adjusting the proportions of works until an exact structural balance was achieved. The five movement form of the First Quartet is interesting in this respect, as the fourth movement Intermezzo is clearly a later addition intended to balance the structure. It works magnificently, but also exposes the workings of Taneyev’s structural thinking. The Fourth Quartet was written ten years later, and is based on a much more cogently planned format. It’s in a relatively traditional four movements, although the first is an Adagio. Its tight structure is based on the continuous reinvention of the opening motif. The motif returns unadulterated to open the finale, retrospectively confirming the listener’s suspicions that it has been there in the background throughout the preceding three movements. But for all the structural ingenuity, this too is a work based on a paradoxical mix of cosmopolitan sophistication and rustic charm. The Taneyev Quartet never lose sight of the latter, especially with their heavy bowing, creating a rich, earthy sound from their lower strings.
I suspect there is room for many different kinds of interpretation with this music, but these readings have much to commend them: commitment, focus, passion, and a palpable connection with the composer and his milieu. And as I say, I’ve no qualms about the sound quality. The Taneyev Quartet really have their fingers on the pulse of this music, and the quality of these readings fully justifies their reissue onto the digital market.
Gavin Dixon

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.