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Sergei Taneyev - Chamber Music
“Sergey Taneyev composed his three piano chamber works in the years 1902-11, on either side of his 50th birthday, when his days as director of the Moscow Conservatoire were well behind him but when he still commanded nationwide respect for his gifts as pianist, administrator and craftsman-composer. These pieces were in the first instance vehicles for his own concert performances, and the piano parts are accordingly massive. Compositionally the writing is unfailingly well wrought and resourceful: by no means entirely confined to middle-ofthe- road tastefulness, yet rarely, if ever, touched by the kind of distinction evinced by his great pupils, Rachmaninov and Scriabin.
At times, especially in the Piano Quartet, it is like being in the presence of a very large and likeable student, who has never quite found his own voice but who remains intent on getting higher and higher marks for the same type of exercise. Yet at the same time the music has an undeniable sweep, and some of the ideas evidently lodged in the minds of future generations – compare the opening bars of the Quintet with Prokofiev's First Violin Sonata, for instance, or the opening of the Piano Trio with the third movement of Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto.
There is a certain Elgarian gruffness here and there, and a liking for fulminating, lowlying textures that may be off-putting at first encounter but which exerts its own particular charm on closer acquaintance.
The Piano Quintet is the latest and grandest of the three works, its structural layout and textures being indebted in just about equal measure to Tchaikovsky and César Franck.
The initially consoling second subject is destined for heroic things in a grandstand résumé at the end of the finale, and on repeated hearings it's a pleasure to discover its unassuming beginnings. In between, the Scherzo has that touch of fairytale magic that came so naturally to most of the great Russians while the slow movement daringly strips down to a passacaglia theme on the cello before dressing up impressively again. Pletnev and his dream-team string colleagues are passionate advocates, as they are for the more classically conceived (or at least more Schumannesque) Trio.
The strings are placed rather far forward, and the acoustic is a fraction too dry for comfort. It's a tribute to the Barbican Piano Trio that they hardly ever find themselves outdone in crusading passion, or indeed outplayed technically, by their bigger-name rivals. James Kirkby is as sensitive as Pletnev to the oases of calm in the slow movement of the Trio, where the piano holds the stage in moments of quiet rapture. By contrast, the Piano Quartet launches immediately into its ecstatic stride, risking anticlimax but rescuing itself by constant renewed initiatives. Violist James Boyd makes his presence strongly felt in the dark-hued slow movement. The Dutton recording strays a fraction the other side of the ideal from DG by giving us a little too much of the room acoustic of St George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol; but once again it is perfectly serviceable.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Taneyev: Piano Quartet, Op. 20 & Piano Trio, Op. 22
Michael Stepniak (viola)
Mendelssohn Piano Trio
James Boyd (viola)
Barbican Piano Trio: Gabrielle Lester (violin), Robert Max (cello), James Kirby (piano)
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Taneyev and Dohnanyi String Trios
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Taneyev: Complete Trios
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Russian Piano Trios
The Moscow Trio: Vladimir Ivanov (violin), Mikhail Utkin (cello) & Alexander Bonduriansky (piano)
This 3‐disc collection showcases Russian piano trios from the mid‐nineteenth to early‐twentieth centuries. Piano trios were unheard of for Russian composers until Mikhail Glinka wrote one in 1832; it earned the epithet ‘Pathétique’ as it seemed to be a reflection of Glinka’s general sadness at the time of writing, the piece alternating between caustic tension and attempts at light‐hearted optimism.
A mournful, melancholic influence then became characteristic of the Russian piano trio: Tchaikovsky unknowingly created a tradition when he composed his offering in 1882 – one of his greatest chamber works and which he dedicated to his recently deceased and much‐missed friend Nikolay Rubinstein. On several subsequent occasions, piano trios were written as memorials. The collection also includes the mathematically‐governed trio of Sergey Taneyev, who had gained a reputation as a cerebral composer, and the trio of Rimsky‐ Korsakov, whose mastery of opera and vocal writing can be seen in the final movement as each instrument takes on its own ‘voice’ and emotion – thus resembling an interaction between characters. Alexander Borodin used the Classical model for his trio, although it contains surprising chromaticism as well as dramatic changes of temperament, including the tragic hymn in the second movement. Anton Arensky’s take on the genre completes the collection. The Moscow Piano Trio was formed in 1976 and has achieved huge success in international competitions, notably winning the Maurice Ravel Gold Medal at the Bordeaux ‘Mai Musical’. The trio is comprised of pianist Alexander Bonduriansky, violinist Vladimir Ivanov and cellist Mikhail Utkin.
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Oistrakh Trio plays Russian Piano Trios
Oistrakh Trio: David Oistrakh (violin), Sviatoslav Knushevitsky (cello) & Lev Oborin (piano)
A selection from the 10-CD set issued on Brilliant Classics, featuring one of the most remarkable piano trios in history: the Oistrakh Trio, with David Oistrakh, Sviatoslav Knushevitsky and Lev Oborin. Three Russian souls pour out their hearts in these piano trios by Russian composers, the great Tchaikovsky trio and other masterworks in the genre:Taneyev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Glinka and Shebalin. The 10CD set of the Oistrakh Trio received a prestigious Diapason d’Or in France (BC9101). Spanning three CDs and providing hours of fascinating listening, this compilation surveys an important facet of the Russian school through detailing one of the lesserknown areas of its output: piano trios. The compilation begins with Tchaikovsky’s famous A minor Trio Op.50, a work that effectively initiated the in memoriam trio and which pays homage to the late death of the composer’s friend Rubinstein through its virtuoso pianism.
From Glinka’s offering, a terse and cyclic piece that draws on the Italian cantilena and displays elements of the Weberesque leitmotif, to Rimsky- Korsakov’s C minor Trio – a rarity among the composer’s mature works – the set also details Taneyev’s symphonically-scaled Trio in D Op.22, modelled on Tchaikovsky’s work and which recalls elements of the master’s style through its use of eleven variations. Rachmaninoff's Trio élégiaque No.2 follows, written in response to the death of Tchaikovsky, and Shebalin’s work, composed 1907, completes the set. All of these works are performed the acclaimed Oistrakh trio, which for nearly a quarter of a century was the elite ensemble of its kind in the USSR.
Though the recordings were made during 1948–57, the raw energy and authority of the group’s playing remain as strong as ever: a valuable set that comprises a worthy addition to the historic collector’s and piano aficionado’s library.
“Oistrakh, Oborin and Knushevitsky are on top form: their epic Tchaikovsky is worth the price of the discs alone. And the Trios by Rimsky, Taneyev and Shebalin are fascinating rarities.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2013 *****
“The playing is typically elite, of invincible musicality, dynamic, imaginative and the very antithesis of autopilot. The sound is clean, cosies close-up to the ear, slightly claustrophobic but very pleasing, untiring and natural. It appears to be mono but is comparable with the sort of high quality signal one heard from BBC’s Radio 3 FM in the 1960s.” MusicWeb International, April 2013
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