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Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, March 2010

The five scherzos for solo piano on this CD, written between 1874 and 1875, are asterisked as being world premiere recordings. And grateful we should be to pianist Olga Solovieva and Naxos for outing them, for they are gem-like beauties, which, in melodic and harmonic vocabulary, are heavily indebted, according to note author Anastasia Belina, to Schumann and Tchaikovsky.

The major work on the program, Taneyev’s 1911 A-Minor Violin Sonata, carries the subtitle, “Of medium difficulty”…Melodically, as well as in the close exchanges and echoing back and forth of material, the writing bears resemblances to the op. 12 violin sonatas of Beethoven, not surprising, given Taneyev’s Classical leanings and his touring with Auer. Based on the hearing of it—I don’t have the score—I’m fairly confident in saying that the piece is technically easier to play than the Beethoven sonatas. Filled with charming melodies for the violin and delightful effects in the piano part, Taneyev’s Sonata would make a wonderful work for any moderately advanced violin student.

Though Naxos is not claiming premiere recording status for the C-Major Theme and Variations, this is the only current listing I find for it. The piece is a student work dated 1874. Taneyev was 18 at the time and still under Tchaikovsky’s supervision. According to Belina’s note, Taneyev’s exercise was heavily influenced by Tchaikovsky’s “Thème original et variations,” the concluding number in his Six Pieces for Piano, op. 19, which appeared in 1873, the year before Taneyev wrote his work. Evidence in support of Belina’s contention comes in the form of a theme Taneyev borrowed from the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Second String Quartet as a counter-melody in the second variation. The transmigration from Tchaikovsky’s Quartet to Taneyev’s Variations must have happened at the speed of light, for both works were written at virtually the same time.

Of the remaining pieces on the disc for solo piano, the Quadrille is the most interesting and the longest at almost eight minutes. Careful listening reveals that Taneyev did not use the title flippantly or fancifully. He was too much of a stickler for correctitude. Technically and formally, a quadrille is an ancient and very complex dance that became all the rage, alongside the waltz craze, in 19th-century Vienna. If written according to the Viennese form, which Taneyev’s is, the dance is comprised of six sections: (1) an open rondo-form, the “Pantalon,” in 2/4 or 6/8 time; (2) the “Été,” always in 2/4; (3) the “Poule,” a closed rondo form, always in 6/8; (4) the “Trénis,” a mirrored binary form (A-B-B-A); (5) the “Pastourelle,” a modified rondo, always in 2/4; and (6) “Finale,” a double ternary form (AA-BB-AA) in 2/4 time in which each statement of the theme is eight bars in length. It’s fascinating to listen to the precision with which Taneyev adheres to the formal scheme in his whirligig Quadrille.

Finally, there is the Romance adapted for violin and piano from the composer’s song cycle, Immortelles. The appearance of the right-hand piano’s notes on the page is alleged to resemble the stalactites of the song’s title, “Stalaktitï.” While there is a static “dripping-tears” character to the piece, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the analogy, especially if you, like me, associate stalactites with the freakish icicle-like formations found in cold limestone caves. Taneyev’s Romance may be tearful, even sentimental, but it’s heartwarming in the same way that the fourth in the set of Dvorák’s Four Romantic Pieces, op. 75, is. In fact, Taneyev’s Romance bears a striking resemblance to the Dvorák.

This is a thoroughly winning disc. The more of Taneyev’s music I hear, the more I think he has been undeservedly eclipsed by the very dilettantes he despised. He wasn’t a Russian nationalist in the mold of the “Mighty Handful,” but his music may actually be better crafted than theirs; and, to me at least, it’s more appealing than that of some of his more renowned students. Ivan Peshkov is wonderful in the two violin works, and Olga Solovieva, as both soloist and accompanist, is one of the best advocates Taneyev has. Urgently recommended.

Joseph Magil
American Record Guide, March 2010

Olga Solovieva is a fine pianist, and Ivan Peshkov is a good violinist…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, February 2010

I’m not sure why ‘Western’ violinists don’t programme the Taneyev Violin sonata more than they do—and almost all don’t. It has spruce and upholstered ideas and its Schumann-cum-Brahmsian axis offers plenty of opportunities for expressive unveiling of its melodic contours. Perhaps some fiddle players shy away from its late Romanticism, and given that they can play, say, Brahms’s Op. 108 perhaps they find it unnecessary to delve further, much less into Russian romantic waters. That’s a pity, and fortunately Russian players are more inclined to popularise their own repertoire, as Feigin and Politovsky, both questing players in this respect, have both shown over the years.

Now we can add Ivan Peshkov to the list. His playing is polished and refined but he doesn’t stint the fire when it’s called for…the drone effects and rippling piano in the Minuetto are most adeptly done, its folk-derived inflexions standing proud and tall, and very neatly pointed. The finale is the most businesslike and Brahmsian of the four movements. Taneyev took a leaf out of the Master’s book and has the confidence to end contemplatively too.

The piano works offer a sequence of mainly dance-based pleasures but actually starts with the relatively expansive Theme and Variations in C major, written in 1874. Pretty clearly patterned on Tchaikovsky’s own Op.19 Theme and Variations it nevertheless offers up some personalised pleasures of its own. Taneyev’s melodic fecundity was considerable and this work is no exception. Rather like the Sonata, which was written much later of course, it too harkens back to Schumann though here the influence was very much more recent and ‘living’. The series of small scale Scherzi that follow also cleave to the Schumannesque and also to Chopin. Olga Solovieva plays the D minor Scherzo with defiant and gutsy strength, whilst the C major flows strongly but with a certain brusqueness. Again she’s a hard-hitting player—perhaps, here, rather too much so. Repose is almost defiantly Chopinesque. The Quadrille is exciting and foot-tapping, whilst the Andantino semplice isa touch Brahmsian. Meanwhile the Op.29 Prelude and Fugue represents Taneyev’s own very romanticised and personalised brand of contrapuntal Bachian writing. The Fugue is skittish and fulsome, unleashing a restless stream of romanticist credentials. As a complete contrast there’s a delicate envoi in the form of the Romance, Op. 26, No. 6: Stalaktitï arranged by Leonid Feigin for violin and piano.

It ends a bipartite disc of real pleasures. Both players are certainly communicative exponents and have been adroitly recorded.

John Terauds
Toronto Star, January 2010

Young Russians—violinist Peshkov and pianist Solovieva—shine some much-needed light on a composer from their homeland who deserves to be heard far more often: Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev. This erudite, well-travelled composer and pianist was a master of traditional counterpoint and helps fill in evolutionary blanks between the styles of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. Peshkov makes a compelling case of 1911’s dramatic Violin Sonata, while Solovieva is fearless in tacking a selection of Teneyev’s virtuosic pieces for piano solo. The finest pieces on this generous disc filled with world-premiere recordings are a Theme and Variations from 1874 and a Prelude and Fugue in G-sharp Minor.

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, December 2009

Recorded 2005–2008 at various Moscow venues, this album affords us a series of “new” works from Sergei Taneyev (1856–1915), the Tchaikovsky acolyte whose own style proves rather mercurial in the world premier performances of his keyboard legacy. The large work, the Violin Sonata “of medium difficulty,” is a late piece that remains within the salon genre, influenced by Schumann and Brahms. The Adagio cantabile nods to the delicate fabric we find in Beethoven’s early sonatas, spinning a continuous melody in small, plastic phrases. The Minuetto, with its droning middle section, reminds one of Grieg while anticipating Shostakovich. The two instruments alternate in their exposition of the Allegro ma non troppo finale, and the model seems to be Beethoven. A sense of restraint permeates the entire piece, the emotions ardent but constrained by an interior modesty that rarely asserts anything like Russian fire.

The C Major Theme and Variations (1874) makes a substantial piece whose means reflect Tchaikovsky’s own Op. 19 Theme and Variations. In the course of its meanderings, the moods embrace waltzes, nocturnes, scherzi, and marches in the manner of Schumann. We might detect an allusion or two to the Davidsbundler Tanze if we listen closely. A fugue appears in the latter pages, somber and strict, based on the finale from Tchaiovsky’s Op. 22 Quartet. The piece 1880 Repose (Elegy) in E Major modulates to A-flat Minor in a manner suited ot Chopin, though the modal writing casts an antique color to the three-minute work.

Soloviev then performs five Scherzi, heavily obligated to Tchaikovsky and Schumann. They fall within a range of years, 1873–1875, the D Minor often reminiscent of parts of Schumann’s Forest-Scenes. The G Minor approaches the worlds of Chopin and Rachmaninov simultaneously, rather driven and obsessive in the bass. The E-flat Minor Scherzo reminds one of Anton Rubinstein’s staccato etude, the emotions assuming the frenetic colossal insistence we find in Scriabin and tumultuous Chopin, the trio section a plastic nocturne. The C Major Scherzo has a decidedly Russian cast, quite in the spirit of Rachmaninov, while the brief F Major bows to Mendelssohn or Grieg. The F Major Prelude (1895) shows traces of Schumann; it was written for virtuoso Alexander Siloti, and its Vivo section becomes digitally demanding.

Taneyev composed a lengthy Quadrille (1879) in which he imitates both Offenbach and Rossini in spirit and Johann Strauss in form. The Andantino semplice (1877) fuses Anton Rubinstein to Brahms, especially through the use of thirds. The only keyboard work assigned an opus number, the Prelude and Fugue in G-sharp Minor, Op. 29 (1910) alludes to delicate Chopin and melancholy Bach, but no less to Tchaikovsky. We could easily think we hear romantic Scriabin, except that the manic fugue could be Shostakovich cross fertilized by Chopin’s Op. 10 Etudes. The last piece, Romance (arr. Leonid Feigin), is a song from Taneyev’s cycle Immortelles. The piano’s right hand staccati represent frozen tears while the violin intones a melancholy lament that fades into the distance.

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