Taneyev: String Trios (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Taneyev
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Scene
WORKS: String Trios (complete)
PERFORMER: Belcanto Strings
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 634 1003-2
Weighed down by his reputation as a master contrapuntalist, Taneyev has stayed in the shadow of his friend and teacher Tchaikovsky. Yet this disc neatly reveals a polish and inventiveness which complement Tchaikovsky’s own Classical vein – and in an interesting form, the string trio, revealing Taneyev’s fascination with close-knit instrumental voices. Indeed, the E flat major Trio of 1910-11 was originally composed for violin, viola and tenor viola – or perhaps one should say alto cello, since the one-off instrument in question looked and sounded like a cello but had a range a fifth higher.

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What we hear, though, is the transposed version for a more conventional format, and with several outer-movement cuts. Still, the work comes across well enough as the sophisticated apogee of the neo-Mozartian vein developed by Tchaikovsky and which Taneyev himself had tentatively sounded in the D major Trio of 1879-80. The last of the trios to be composed is in a darker, more lamentatory vein – but neatly bounded, in the first movement at least, by near-perfect sonata form (the finale’s set of variations, completed after Taneyev’s death, hangs together less convincingly). These are stylish performances with only the last degree of upper-register fullness missing from the violinist, possibly dampened by untampered-with acoustics. David Nice