Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Sergei Ivanovich TANEYEV
Complete String Trios: E flat, Op. 31; B minor (1913); D (1879/80)
Belcanto Strings (Wolfgang Schröder, violin; Daniel Raskin, viola; Ramon Jaffé, cello).
Dabringhaus und Grimm MDG 634 1003-2 [69'58] [DDD]

Sergei Taneyev seems distinctly under-represented in today's catalogue. A reputation for academicism has not helped: the robust contrapuntalism of, for example, the first movement of the E flat Trio, Op. 31 indeed clearly reflects this aspect of his nature. One-dimensional dismissal of composers, whilst possibly convenient, tends to carry more harm than good, and here the Belcanto Strings provide an excellent opportunity for reappraisal.

Taneyev's links with the Moscow Conservatory began at an early age. He graduated in May 1875, and returned to teach piano in the early 1880's, subsequently taking over the composition class. Taneyev's pupils include names such as Rachmaninov, Lyapounov, Scriabin and Medtner.

Chamber music proved a natural medium, as the clarity of line appealed to Taneyev's contrapuntal instincts. The purity of the string trio gave rise to the works on the present disc: in the chamber music sphere in general Taneyev left six numbered string quartets, a piano trio, a piano quartet and a piano quintet.

The disc begins with the E flat Trio of 1910. The Belcanto Strings give a tender, delicately shaded account of the third movement, Adagio espressivo and provide the requisite lively articulation and sprightly rhythms for the charming 'Scherzino' and the bouncy finale.

After that, the darker, viola imbued opening of the two-movement B minor Trio (complete with sniff-anacrusis!) comes as a moving contrast. Variation form would seem a similarly natural form to a composer whose major academic treatise was entitled Florid Counterpoint in Strict Style. There is hardly a hint of the dusty conservatory library in the variations that form the second movement, however. Rather, Taneyev seeks to cover a surprisingly wide emotional range over its ten-minute duration.

Of all the works on this disc, it is in the D major that one is aware of the lighter, airy texture of the string trio medium. Lightness does not mean lack of musical substance, however, and the first movement in particular can be elusive at times. Taneyev can seem almost like a Russian Mendelssohn, something that is particularly true of the D major trio.

The advocacy of the young Belcanto Strings is a major contributory factor to this disc's success. The recording is clear and focussed.


Colin Clarke




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