Hyperion Records

String Trio in E flat major, Op 31
composer
1910/11; dedicated to Yuri Pomerantsev; published in 1911 and first performed on 22 March 1913 in Moscow as a trio for violin, viola and tenor viola

Recordings
'Taneyev: String Trios' (CDA67573)
Taneyev: String Trios
Details
Movement 1: Allegro con brio
Movement 2: Scherzino: Allegretto vivace
Movement 3: Adagio espressivo
Movement 4: Presto

String Trio in E flat major, Op 31
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The String Trio in E flat major Op 31 is a thoroughly mature work as well as Taneyev’s most substantial contribution to the genre. He dedicated it to his pupil Yuri Pomerantsev, a conductor and composer who later became conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre orchestra. Composed in 1910–11, this Trio was originally conceived for an unorthodox instrumentation of violin, viola and tenor viola (an instrument of cello form but tuned a fourth higher); but though the Trio was published in that form in 1911 and premiered thus on 22 March 1913 in Moscow, the tenor viola has not made headway on the concert platform and the work has usually been performed since with a cello. (Here Kate Gould has made a new version for violin, viola and cello which departs in many particulars from the published score: the notes are the same, but their distribution between the three instruments is sometimes quite differently conceived.)

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 The ternary-form slow movement begins in a withdrawn, hymn-like manner that suggests Taneyev was thinking of the Adagios of Beethoven’s late quartets, but as it develops it becomes warmly lyrical in character,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

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