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Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, March 2010

Suite de concert, written in 1909, is a novel, if rather disorganized, approach to a Romantic violin concerto. It’s an unusual conflation of serenade, neo-Baroque suite, and theme and variations that—in the hearing of it—seems to divide into movements or sections: an introductory Prelude, followed by a scherzo-like Gavotte, and then a slowish “Fairy Tale” movement marked Andantino. These three movements, in turn, set the stage, none too convincingly, for a theme and six variations with an extended variation-coda. But that’s not the end of this identity-confused work. The grand finale is a spirited Tarantella. In terms of style, I suppose some of the writing is suggestive of Glazunov’s A-Minor Violin Concerto that preceded the Suite de concert by five years; but there’s a passage beginning at 2:49 in the “Fairy Tale” movement that bears an uncanny resemblance to Chausson’s Poéme for violin and orchestra , written in 1896. It has long been the composer’s most widely known and recorded piece…Russian violinist Ilya Kaler has been one of Naxos’s long time and most dependable house artists, having recorded a respectable cross section of the Romantic violin repertoire. While Taneyev’s piece is no salon morceau, neither is it a virtuosic vehicle like the almost exactly contemporary Glazunov and Sibelius concertos. Kaler’s rounder tone and less excitable approach work well in the Taneyev, and I prefer his performance to that of Gringolts [on Hyperion].

When it comes to the cantata, Ioann Damaskin, Naxos[‘s recording, with…] its Russian chorus, orchestra, and conductor… sounds convincingly authentic…At Naxos’s budget price, though, I’d say the new CD is well worth the modest investment.

Robert R. Reilly, October 2009

Another new Naxos release will leave you with no doubt about Taneyev’s ability to write beautiful choral music, as it offers his John of Damascus Cantata, Op. 1, which draws more on Russia’s sacred music tradition than it does on opera. It is accompanied by the Suite de Concert for violin and orchestra, a very engaging and entertaining work. Thomas Sanderling does another superb job, this time with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gnesin Academy Chorus, and the very fine soloist, violinist Ilya Kaler.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2009

Few recordings of Sergey Taneyev have enjoyed an extended shelf-life, but we now have an undertaking that will make his music available at a price where you can experiment. A piano student of Nikolay Rubinstein and composition pupil of Tchaikovsky, it was the outgoing and highly coloured symphonic scores of his pupils, Rachmaninov, Gliere and Scriabin, that sealed the fate of his own output. He was also highly critical of his own work, allocating his first opus number at the age of twenty-eight to his cantata, Ioann Damaskin (John of Damascus). Using Tolstoy’s story, it is in three movements, the opening both melodically and dramatically riveting; the slow central movement engaging, and the finale just struggling to overcome academic rectitude. Scored for chorus and symphony orchestra, it runs not far short of half and hour, and is here performed with that brand of certitude that such music requires. Twenty-five years later in 1909, and towards the end of a not overlong life, he composed his first score for violin and orchestra, the Suite de concert. In five movements, the fourth being an extended theme and six variations that offers the soloist a virtuoso display, with a hectic Tarantella in a Russian-Spanish flavour to make a short finale The highly persuasive soloist is Ilya Kaler, a violinist who has already given us some electrifying performances on Naxos, that finale whistling past in a whirlwind of notes. The Russian Philharmonic, under Thomas Sanderling, perfectly captures the Taneyev idiom, the Gnesin Academy Chorus admirable in the cantata.

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