Taneyev’s String Quartets Nos 8 & 2 performed by the Carpe Diem String Quartet and James Buswell

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COMPOSERS: Taneyev
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Taneyev
WORKS: String Quartet No. 8 in C; String Quintet No. 2 in C*
PERFORMER: Carpe Diem String Quartet; *James Buswell (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573671

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Carpe Diem’s Taneyev series has been distinguished by a greater liveliness and more precise tuning than characterised the last complete cycle recorded by the USSR’s Taneyev Quartet (on Northern Flowers). This final volume opens with the String Quartet in C major, an early work dating from 1883 but only published in the 1950s, more than 35 years after the composer’s death. The young composer’s debt to Mozart and Schubert is evident in its amiable first and third movements. Only in the expressive slow movement does Taneyev reflect a more contemporary sensibility. Carpe Diem take its Adagio ma non troppo marking as licence for quite a flowing tempo, making the movement a good two minutes shorter than the Taneyev Quartet’s; it works after a fashion, but the Taneyevs’ more leisurely pace allows greater sensitivity to the music’s Romantic style.

The Quintet in C major, composed in 1905, is a more impassioned and dramatic work, dedicated to the memory of the great Russian music publisher Mitrofan Belyayev (a steadfast champion of Scriabin’s). Wagner’s influence can be heard immediately in its opening expressive harmonies, yet Taneyev’s late friend, Tchaikovsky, remains its most pervasive influence. Carpe Diem and viola player James Buswell effectively bring out the first movement’s striking contrasts in the manner of that great composer, whose spirit equally informs the noble slow movement and charmingly playful scherzo. The somewhat generic Sturm und Drang finale apart, this is a very worthwhile work deserving wider exposure.

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Daniel Jaffé