Composer: Sergey Taneyev
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Size: 356 MB
# Quintet for piano & strings in G Minor, Op 30
Composed by Sergey Taneyev
with Lynn Harrell, Vadim Repin, Nobuko Imai, Ilya Gringolts, Mikhail Pletnev
# Trio for piano, violin & cello in D, Op 22
Composed by Sergey Taneyev
with Lynn Harrell, Vadim Repin, Mikhail Pletnev
Taneyev’s piano quintet is a towering masterpiece that is inexplicably neglected
As an aficionado of chamber music, I thought I was familiar with all the great piano quintets. I had heard that Taneyev’s contribution to the genre was a massive work and this was confirmed by my perusal of the score (which was the direct impetus for the purchase of this recording). Well, it’s been a very long time since I was absolutely bowled over and mesmerized by a piece of music, but this quintet is truly a stunning masterpiece from the somber opening to the jubilant conclusion, and certainly deserves to be played along with those of Schumann, Brahms, and especially Dvorák. In my opinion, it’s the greatest work of chamber music ever composed by a Russian, making it incomprehensible to me that Taneyev’s music has been so neglected.
The first movement is a turbulent piece in sonata form with a sweetly tender second subject (in the unorthodox key of A flat major) which contains two very expressive and poignant features: a rising seventh in its second bar and a Neapolitan sixth in its penultimate bar. What’s even more unusual about this melody (and something I realized only after multiple hearings) is that its first six notes are an inversion of the first theme’s initial six notes! Pay special attention to this melody as it will return at the very end of the work in a most grandiose and spectacular fashion. The second movement is a deft almost Mendelssohnian scherzo in E flat major with a beautiful trio that returns in the da capo in combination with the scherzo theme (Taneyev was a master of counterpoint and even wrote a book about it). In this da capo section, a slight deviation from the score occurs in the third and fourth bars after figure 144 (on page 60 of the score), where the triple-stopped cello chords are played arco instead of pizzicato. The slow movement is based entirely on a descending C major scale above which is placed a most beautiful melody. It’s almost like a passacaglia with a ground bass that is repeated 40 times accompanying music of haunting beauty. The finale is another stormy movement which ultimately leads to a reprise of the second subject of the first movement in an ecstatic peroration. Once heard, you will never forget the way that initially tender and unassuming lyrical melody is transformed into a rapturous G major paean of triumph. That rising seventh I mentioned earlier lends this melody a particularly blissful quality, especially noticeable when the first violin and the cello soar to stratospheric heights in the coda while playing at the upper limits of their registers. This coda is extraordinarily beautiful and ends the quintet in a tremendous outpouring of sound unlike that in any other chamber work I know. In the final seven bars, as indicated in the score (“quasi campane”), the piano actually imitates the pealing of bells!
Coming immediately after the joyous conclusion of the quintet, the trio is a bit anticlimactic, but it is still a beautiful masterwork that doesn’t deserve its neglect. My favorite movement is the ferocious scherzo. It is easily the equal of any of the standard piano trios that are played over and over again. The score of the quintet is available free of charge from IMSLP (sorry, but amazon won’t let me post the URL–just search for the work under Taneyev). The performance of Mikhail Pletnev et al is blazing in intensity and flawless in execution. Not surprisingly, this CD has been named chamber music recording of the year by Gramophone Magazine. If you have any appreciation for chamber music (and especially if you don’t), you owe it to yourself for the sake of your soul to purchase this recording, so click that “buy now” button right away.