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Hyperion Records

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Vasilisa the Beautiful: Vasilisa carrying home a skull with burning eyes, from Russian Fairy Tales (1899) by Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942)
AKG London
Track(s) taken from CDA67965
Recording details: December 2012
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Hayes
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: October 2013
Total duration: 44 minutes 13 seconds

'Taneyev's Piano Quintet is an expansive work, warmly played here and with the subtle intelligence he demanded of himself when planning a work … Arensky's Quintet has the lightness of touch that he admired in Tchaikovsky … the piano-writing is deft and delicate, excellently handled by Piers Lane and well balanced with the strings in the recording' (Gramophone)

'The elevated intelligence and romantic intensity of Taneyev's writing, laid out here on an almost epic scale, are amply reflected by Piers Lane and the Goldner Quartet, as is Arensky's blend of rigour, ardour and charm' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Here is yet another fabulous performance of unfamiliar repertory to grace the remarkable Hyperion catalogue … this is a work which has been neglected for too long. As David Fanning writes, 'this massive work bids fair for the accolade of the greatest work in the Russian chamber repertoire before Shostakovich's Piano Quintet' … the approach of the Goldners reveals true chamber music-making of intimacy, and of no less intensity. Lane, meanwhile, is every bit as virtuosic as Pletnev … these are fascinating works and the performances are suitably brilliant. Highly recommended' (International Record Review)

'Rich in romantic melody … these are well-realised performances, and in realistic sound. Clearly music which should be heard more in concert programmes' (Liverpool Daily Post)

Piano Quintet in G minor, Op 30
composer
1911

Largo  [8'52]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
As a composer Taneyev’s reputation has suffered from the knee-jerk association of contrapuntal mastery with expressive dryness. It is true that he took an architectural approach to large-scale form, working from a vision of the overall proportions down to the details. It is also the case that he was in the habit of systematically investigating the combinatorial possibilities of his themes before committing himself to the act of composition itself. He was also extremely self-critical, approving only one of his four symphonies for publication, for instance. But in his chamber music especially (notably his nine string quartets) there is a warmth to the lyricism, an energy to the fast movements, and a charm to the scherzos, that belie his reputation for intellectual aloofness. The often-used epithet ‘the Russian Brahms’ (also applied to Medtner) deserves to be pronounced with admiration rather than with a sneer, and it fits the Piano Quintet particularly well, as regards both its instrumental writing and its intellectual passion. Composed in 1911, this massive work bids fair for the accolade of the greatest work in the Russian piano-chamber repertoire before Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet of 1940. Only the extravagance of its technical demands can explain its failure to establish itself in the standard repertoire.

The first movement is prefaced by a dark, searching introduction, all of whose ideas will eventually be stirred into the melting-pot of the Allegro patetico. The shadowy theme heard at the outset on the piano (emulated by Prokofiev more than thirty years later, in one of his darkest and most impressive works, the First Violin Sonata) transmutes into the main theme of the movement. It also engenders the main contrasting idea, when, as if by magic, its descending contour is inverted to reveal a nobly aspiring tune. Both thematic groups are led off by the piano, as is the development section (beginning ‘stormily’, after a pizzicato cadence for the strings). Waves of compositional and instrumental virtuosity culminate in a recapitulation that allocates the aspiring theme to the cello and is unremitting in its technical demands on the pianist.

The charm of the effervescent Scherzo rests most obviously on the bouncing staccatos for the strings, but more subtly also on the harmonic deflections in the main theme and in the various circuitous routes Taneyev devises in order to get back to the home key. Not least among the challenges to the pianist in this movement are the scales that lead into the main theme. Initially unobtrusive, these grow on each appearance, eventually covering most of the instrument’s range. Sandwiched in the middle of the movement is a warm-hearted trio section, whose opening bars briefly reappear as a kind of parenthesis in the headlong coda.

Smuggled into that coda is a descending scalic figure that will become the foundation of the Largo, a slow movement of almost Handelian stateliness. This theme is presented in statuesque octaves at the outset, then becomes the support for a lyrical flowering in the strings that seems determined to find freedom of movement despite the stubborn repetitions in the cello. The entire Largo unfolds as a dialogue: not just between piano and strings but also on a more philosophical level, between intellectual severity and expressive warmth.

If the slow movement is a tour de force of construction, so too is the Finale. Its first half is in a constant state of flux, almost as though an entire exposition section has been deleted and we have been plunged instead straight into the development. At length the first movement’s main ideas are caught up in the maelstrom, provoking a grandiose climax. Even this, however, is only the beginning of a coda that is laid out on the grandest scale and topped off by a tintinnabulating affirmation of the long-withheld G major.

from notes by David Fanning © 2013

Other albums featuring this work
'Hyperion monthly sampler – October 2013' (HYP201310)
Hyperion monthly sampler – October 2013
HYP201310  Download-only monthly sampler   No longer available
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