Geoffrey Norris
January 2017

Although Borodin and Tchaikovsky wrote string quartets and, in Tchaikovsky’s case, a piano trio that have maintained their rightful place in the repertoire, it was Sergey Taneyev who applied himself to the realms of chamber music with particular industry in the context of late-19th- and early-20th-century Russia. With the upsurge of interest in Taneyev’s music in recent years, much of it, including the D major Trio, has already been recorded, as too, rather more surprisingly, has Rimsky-Korsakov’s C minor Trio. But this new coupling of the two works benefits considerably from the compelling way in which the Leonore Piano Trio plays them.

Taneyev, more astute than Tchaikovsky was in finding a balance between the piano and the two string instruments, is also far more resourceful in tonal colouring, in contrapuntal knitting and pitting of parts and in the general sense of creative momentum and coherence. These are qualities that the Leonore harness to terrific effect, bringing to the fore the fact that Taneyev, far from being mired in the pedantry for which he was maligned before his music became more generally known, had a passionate, romantic impulse, strong ideas and a true lyrical gift that is as individual as it is affecting and discerningly deployed.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Trio, completed by his son-in-law Maximilian Steinberg, does not probe as deeply as Taneyev’s. But the sensitive way in which the Leonore point up its attractions and gird up the music’s latent vitality more than justifies its inclusion here.