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Monday, March 14, 2016

Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev, Complete String Quartets 4, Carpe Diem String Quartet

With all the releases flying about these days plus the cumulative effect of all one has heard it is relatively easy to miss some fine music by composers you might not have been exposed to for reasons having nothing to do with the music itself. Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev (1856-1915) is one of those unknown to me; his Complete String Quartets 4 (Naxos 8.573470) by the Carpe Diem String Quartet not something I might have taken a chance on in my pre-review days. But as it so happens I have this season and I am all the better for it.

Tchaikovsky was his mentor, Rachmaninov and Scriabin his students, yet as far as his own music goes he is not well-known. Tchaikovsky admired his way with counterpoint and his meticulous approach to craft, calling him the "Russian Bach." His chamber works are perhaps the more widely admired of his output today, and the string quartets are perhaps most lauded by those who take the time to know them. His "String Quartet No. 9" (1883) was one of three quartets that were published long after his death, in 1952. His "String Quartet No. 6" (1905) was his very last. Both are integral and comprise the Volume 4 we look at today.

They are romantic works with folk elements and thematic development of a high luster, brilliant works less sentimental than strongly emotive. Hearing them one is readily put into the framework of the time period concerned, yet the music does not lend itself to easy comparisons or parallels to others working in the quartet realm at that point. In short they have an originality, an inspired and extraordinarily well crafted way about them. The ninth is especially fine, but both have much to appreciate in them.

The Carpe Diem String Quartet gives the music a fully dimensional reading, showing a full command of Taneyev's vocabulary and a great respect, even a love of the works. They give us near ideal performances in this volume, and go a long ways in framing the music to bring out the finely wrought beauty of Taneyev at his best. Very highly recommended.

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