Taneyev: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 4

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Russian State SO/Valeri Polyansky
Without the painstaking reconstructions of Soviet scholars, we would probably still be under the impression that Taneyev only composed one symphony worth hearing – the gruff C minor work (No. 4) he allowed to be published as Op. 12. Its rather thick polyphony tends to reinforce his dry reputation as a master contrapuntalist, so it’s worth comparing with the simpler symphony he was close to completing, very much under Tchaikovsky’s influence, in 1877-8. In one of their most disciplined performances to date, Polyansky and his Russian orchestra handle its brooding B flat minor introduction distinctively before making a strong, fluid case for all the material in the Allegro up to the movement’s one big coup – a harmonically bold drive back towards the introductory theme. Squarer subject matter dominates the second and third movements, but the clearer air they breathe makes a fine contrast to the concentrated density of the later Symphony, with its admirable exploration of the possibilities in Taneyev’s all-pervasive opening gesture. Despite the occasional moment of suspect intonation Polyansky’s grip remains strong and convincing, less portentous than Järvi in the previous Chandos recording of the Symphony, and he’s well served by a Moscow recording which has learnt to lay off the echo-chamber effect so damaging to several instalments in the same team’s Glazunov cycle. David Nice