Sergei TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Piano Quartet in E major, op. 20 (1902-06) [45:21]
Piano Trio in D major, op. 22 (1906-08) [40:08]
Violin Sonata in A minor (1911) [25:00]
Piano Quintet in G minor, op. 30 (1910-11) [47:03]
Alessandro Deljavan (piano)
Daniela Cammarano, Daniele Orlando (violin)
Paolo Castellitto (viola)
Andrea Agostinelli (cello)
rec. 2013, Teatro Comunale, Atri, Italy
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download from eClassical
AEVEA AE15004/5 [85:29 + 72:03]

This recording from a new Italian label duplicates and supplements a well-regarded CPO release from last year (review). The earlier release didn’t include the violin sonata, which makes this new one potentially better value. I say potentially, because unfortunately the performances disappoint.

The quartet which opens the first disc is the earliest of the four works, and certainly sounds like a work in progress. If this is your first time with Taneyev’s chamber music, I would recommend that you don’t start here. Instead, as both my colleagues have indicated in their review of the CPO disc, the quintet is Taneyev’s best work in the medium of chamber music with piano. That said, I would rate it a fair way down the league of piano quintets, below that of Arensky’s, for example, with which it is paired on a Hyperion release (review). In this, I differ significantly from Stephen Greenbank, reviewer of the Hyperion disc, who places it up with the Schumann and Brahms works. The trio has its moments, especially the delightfully playful last movement. The sonata is the smallest of the four works, and also the lightest in mood.

For me, Taneyev’s talents do not lie with melody. He is renowned for his skill in counterpoint, and there is no doubt that in huge works such as these, a good structure is necessary. However, I’m not sure that the large “spaces” that he has created are filled with sufficiently interesting content. To show them in their best possible light requires playing of the utmost quality, such as that on a Deutsche Grammophon disc of the Quintet and Trio, with a stellar group led by Vadim Repin, or the Hyperion recording mentioned above.

What is presented here is quite the opposite, to the extent that I could not listen to any single track all the way through. The intonation of the violins and viola was simply awful: harsh and aggressive, and seemingly even out of tune at times. The piano part was treated with a very heavy hand, though this may be partly the fault of the composer. What I assume was a conscious decision to over-emphasise the accents and crescendos gave me the aural equivalent of seasickness. To make matters worse, the recording emphasised the ugly sounds emanating from the instruments, removing any warmth that may have been present. This is, or at least should be, Romantic Russian music, not Ligeti and Boulez.

You may have noted the more than 85 minute duration for the first CD, and wondered whether it was a typo. I can assure you that it is not, and while I don’t know whether this is a “record” for a normal CD, it certainly is the longest I have seen. It is, alas, the most interesting aspect of this recording, but I do applaud this new label for delving into relatively unsung repertoire.

Sadly, I have to conclude that this is so unrecommendable. You may have a different opinion: see for yourself on one of the various streaming services.

David Barker


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