Taneyev: Symphonies Nos 1 & 3

COMPOSERS: Taneyev
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Taneyev
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 1 & 3
PERFORMER: Russian State SO/Valeri PolyanskyJoseph Banowetz, Adam Wodnicki (piano); Vladimir Ashkenazy (narrator); Russian Philharmonic of Moscow/Thomas Sanderling
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10390
The Chandos issue completes Valery Polyansky’s survey of the Taneyev symphonies. The First, a student work composed in 1873 when he was 16, was never performed or published in Taneyev’s lifetime and was probably an exercise set by his teacher, Tchaikovsky. By the time of the Third (1884), he had already succeeded the latter as professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatoire. Immature and awkward though the E minor is at times, it still shows originality of mind (the Andantino is captivating), and the Third is masterly and compelling. Both are unlike any other Russian symphony of their time. David Brown once wrote that Taneyev ‘had little imaginative endowment but commanded a compositional skill unsurpassed by any composer of his period’. True, his melodic ideas are not in the same league as Glazunov or Arensky but these symphonies, which I have not encountered on disc before, have the momentum and flow of the true symphonist, particularly in these persuasive performances. Recommended with enthusiasm.

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Taneyev began his only piano concerto when he was 19, the year after he had given the Moscow premiere of Tchaikovsky’s B flat minor Concerto. He showed the first two movements to Nikolai Rubinstein, Rimsky-Korsakov and Cui, but their unenthusiastic response prompted him to put it on one side. Not even the encouragement of Tchaikovsky could induce him to complete it. Although the latter’s influence is obvious, Taneyev is already his own man – particularly in the short second movement (orchestrated by Shebalin), and the writing is cultured and dignified. The 25-minute first movement is original in conception even if the ideas do not possess the freshness and melodic spontaneity of Tchaikovsky. The seven piano pieces, mostly from the 1870s are rewarding, and already exhibit fastidious craftsmanship. Save for the Prelude of 1895, the Elegy and Lullaby of the early 1880s, all this music is new to the catalogue including the light-hearted tribute to Tchaikovsky on his 52nd birthday in which Ashkenazy appears as narrator. The performances are of quality and the notes by Anastasia Belina with copious music-type illustrations, exemplary. In the concerto, the recording could perhaps be fresher and the orchestral texture better ventilated but this should not detract from a highly interesting

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and valuable issue. Robert Layton