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Sergei TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Violin Sonata (1911) [23:24]
Piano Quartet Op.20 (1906) [36:51]
Vladimir Ovcharek (violin); Tamara Fidler (piano)
Vladimir Ovcharek (violin); Vladimir Stopichev (viola); Iosif Levinson (cello); Eliso Virsaladze (piano)
rec. 1980 (Sonata) and 1987 (Quartet), St Petersburg Recording Studio

Experience Classicsonline

As I’ve noted before, the Taneyev Violin Sonata has largely been the possession of Russian players and even its more Brahmsian moments haven’t induced too many ‘Western’ players to essay it. That’s a pity. It’s a lyrical, engaging work with fine tunes, modestly scaled and it has the confidence to end quietly. Fortunately we don’t lack for recordings and the reissue of this disc is another example of a prestigious duo essaying it.

Vladimir Ovcharek, first violin of the Taneyev Quartet – heroes of the Miaskovsky quartet canon on disc – is joined by the esteemed Tamara Fidler for this 1980 traversal. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s a quarter of a century old, or even by the slightly steely recorded sound. Ovcharek is less tonally broad than his compatriot Feigin – another Miaskovsky hero, who recorded the Concerto – but they share a number of tempo-related decisions and a general approach to the sonata. Fortunately in this release the piano’s accompanying figuration is better balanced and delineated than in the Feigin recording. Emotively we find Ovcharek is a touch cooler than Feigin, and he avoids digging into the string in the slow movement with as much plangency. However the Ovcharek-Fidler duo adopts a rather crisper approach in the finale, and is rather more fanciful than Feigin and Victor Poltoratsky. If you want a rather more athletic and lithe traversal, consider Politkovsky on RCD16279, though he’s not as elegant a musician as Feigin. A budget price modern alternative is the recent Naxos recording with Ivan Peshkov and Olga Solovieva though again they cede to the older established pairings in respect of affection and finesse.

The coupling here is the Piano Quartet. The ensemble of Vladimir Ovcharek (violin), Vladimir Stopichev (viola), Iosif Levinson (cello) – all of the Taneyev Quartet - and Eliso Virsaladze prove estimable exponents though they lack the sweep and panache of Yudina and the Beethoven Quartet whose 1953 recording is back on Vista Vera and Brilliant Classics. The Yudina/Beethoven ensemble takes a more decisive tempo for the first two movements and sculpts things more dramatically too. Both ensembles however deal nicely with the lovely slow movement – with its Blue Moon theme – and play up the urgency of the B section. The mono sonics of the earlier performance are hardly up to the 1987 standard of the Taneyev/Virsaladze and that’s still more the case with the excellently recorded Ames Piano Quartet recording, now in a Dorian box (1324 947 1614) but their traversal, whilst beautifully played, is altogether too languid.

Overall my main man in the sonata is Feigin, despite Ovcharek’s saucier take in the finale. As a performance I’d still go for the Yudina-anchored Quartet but the improved sonics and really good performance of the Taneyev/Virsaladze may swing things.

Jonathan Woolf



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