Glazunov & Taneyev String Quintets performed by the Gringolts Quartet and Christian Poltéra

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Aleksandr Konstantinovich Glazunov; Sergei Taneyev
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Glazunov • Taneyev
WORKS: Taneyev: String Quintet No. 1; Glazunov: String Quintet in A
PERFORMER: Gringolts Quartet; Christian Poltéra (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS BIS-2177 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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How good it has been to engage with Taneyev’s big, bold First String Quintet for the second time in a year. I’m still waiting for a performance to relish the moments of sheer panache – with the Gringolts Quartet and cellist Christian Poltéra, as with the Martin∞ Quartet (reviewed June 2015), more sheer power is needed in scything fortissimos – but the subtleties of BIS’s team reveal even more beauties, especially in the finale’s wonderful theme and its first five variations. The magical melting away of the three-subject fugue through an octatonic quotation from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko is ineffably done, and the theme’s return has a supernatural shimmer.

It came as no surprise to read of the players’ rare Italian instruments – Claudius Herrmann’s cello was once owned by Prince Golitsyn and used in premieres of three late Beethoven quartets. The most silvery colours come in the third movement of Glazunov’s 1892 Quintet, the truthful Zurich recording supporting tonal beauty here. What a charmer this work is, starting with a lilting 3/8 melody which shows Glazunov at his most distinctively bucolic; the whole Allegro flows ineffably, despite numerous changes of metre. The interplay of pizzicato and bowed lines in a typically treasurable Russian scherzo delights, too, and if the finale is rather rudely healthy for the company of its gentler companions – hearing this without knowing the composer, you might guess Dvoπák – it also has its gracious beauties. My thanks to these cultured players for introducing me to yet another distinguished specimen of the surprisingly rich Russian chamber repertoire.

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David Nice