Taneyev: String Quartets, Vol.1

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Taneyev
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Taneyev
WORKS: String Quartets, Vol.1: Nos 1 & 3
PERFORMER: Carpe Diem Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570437

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Chamber musicians favour Taneyev’s gusty and exhausting Piano Quintet, but the six string quartets offer a more complex balance between darkness and light, the contrapuntal busyness at which Taneyev excelled and wide open spaces just when we need them. It was a great disappointment when the Krasni Quartet got no further than the first volume of their Olympia cycle (reviewed in June 2002), so we can only wish the Carpe Diem four better luck. They offer less subtle angles than the Krasnis on the more introspective passages of the five-movement First Quartet, but celebrate more sturdily Taneyev’s robust melodic impetus (viola-player Korine Fujikawa is striking in the big second subject of the first movement). Taneyev’s neo-classical finale, anticipating Richard Strauss’s Indian summer by over half a century, is a real delight, superb encore material; and there’s more of the same among the ‘Theme and Variations’ of the Third Quartet – though here Taneyev often seems to be striving for full orchestral effects, which again the Carpe Diems seem to relish. There’s far more inspired invention in both quartets than in most of Taneyev’s larger-scale works, and once again it gives the lie to his stereotyped image as a dry master of counterpoint – an art of which 19th-century Russian composers were so suspicious. ‘Roll on volumes two and three’, I wrote of the Olympia cycle; let’s hope that holds good for Naxos. David Nice