Movement 1: Allegro con brio
Movement 2: Scherzino: Allegretto vivace
Movement 3: Adagio espressivo
Movement 4: Presto
The first movement of the E flat Trio, a festive and good-humoured sonata form, has—like the first movement of the early D major Trio—a Mozartian quality: but a Mozart made sumptuous by the full contrapuntal texture and shifts and twists of harmony that could only have come from a century later. Taneyev’s handling of the three instruments to produce a rich sonority like a miniature string orchestra is certainly remarkable, and his complete mastery of the medium is evident throughout the whole work.
The following Scherzino is an even more brilliant inspiration: a tunefully effervescent and clearly ‘Russian’ movement full of crisp rhythmic invention with telling contrasts of arco (bowed) and pizzicato (plucked) writing. Instead of the traditional trio section there is a deft, wintry development of the main ideas. (Is a recurrent figure here, closely reminiscent of ‘The Hall of the Mountain King’ from Grieg’s Peer Gynt, a complete coincidence?) The ternary-form slow movement begins in a withdrawn, hymn-like manner that suggests Taneyev was thinking of the Adagios of Beethoven’s late quartets, but as it develops it becomes warmly lyrical in character, with a touching emotional directness. The finale is a decisive and rather raffish rondo, which eventually presents the material of the first movement in much modified form to round off the structure in a logical manner. For Taneyev, however, logic need not preclude jollity, and this vivacious movement closes the proceedings not only in fine style but also in high spirits.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008