SERGEY TANEYEV: Overture to Oresteia; Oresteia Entr’acte; Adagio in C; Overture on a Russian Theme; Cantata on Pushkin’s ‘Exegi Monummentum’; Canzona; Overture in D Minor – Novosibirsk State Phil. Ch. Choir & Academic Sym./Thomas Sanderling – Naxos

by | Jul 16, 2009 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

SERGEY TANEYEV: Overture to Oresteia, Op. 6; Oresteia, Act III: Entr’acte; Adagio in C Major; Overture on a Russian Theme; Cantata on Pushkin’s ‘Exegi Monummentum’; Canzona; Overture in D Minor – Stanislav Jankovsky, clarinet (Canzona)/Novosibirsk State Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Academic Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Sanderling – Naxos 8.570584, 74:53 ****:

Thomas Sanderling bears us gifts (rec. 1-15 September 2007) from the relatively unknown orchestral works of Sergey Taneyev (1856-1915), whose musical memory endures mostly in his occasional symphony or the Concert-Suite for Violin and Orchestra. If nothing else, these new additions to the Taneyev recorded legacy indicate the scope of Taneyev’s academic studies, which open with his absorption of the Aeschylean tragedy of the House of Atreus.  Taneyev’s huge overture (1888) for his 1894 opera embraces the many ‘leitmotifs’ of the plot–and along Wagnerian lines–of betrayal, infanticide, inadvertent cannibalism, matricide, divine vengeance and ultimate vindication. Rather programmatic in execution, the Overture exhibits Taneyev’s mastery of various classical forms–canon, fugue, stretti, and the entire gamut of orchestral colors, especially harp figuration. Tchaikovsky himself led the premier of this monumental piece in 1889. The last three minutes or so depict the appearance of Apollo in shimmering echoes of Lohengrin to forgive Orestes and release him from the Furies’ torments. The Entr’acte from Act III presides over Orestes’ sojourn to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, where the harp definitely rules. Once again, the Wagnerian influence can be felt, with massive chords from Tannhauser or Goetterdaemmerung. The colors, however, remain purely Russian-old-style, so it little wonder that Rimsky-Korsakov favored this piece in his own concerts.

Taneyev’s lovely Adagio in C Major (1875) for small orchestra derives from his student days, when imitating the lyric gift of Tchaikovsky weighed heavily.  Suppressed by Taneyev, the score came to light in 1950.  If you asked me to ‘name the source of the tune,’ I’d hazard Glinka. From the same Moscow Conservatory period comes the Canzona for Clarinet and Strings (pub. 1883), a rare concertante piece by Taneyev. A chromatic melody from the orchestra finds a reply in the solo clarinet, and they engage in a flowing idyll that might have influenced Finzi. Solo Stanislav Yankovsky makes several fine points in this brief piece, not the least is a smooth tone that would naturally lend itself to Mozart. In 1880 Taneyev composed his cantata set to the first two verses of Pushkin’s Exegi Monumentum (“I have built one monument to myself”) to be played at the unveiling of a Pushkin memorial at which significant writers like Dostoievsky and Turgenev attended. In gorgeously-recorded E Major, the piece adheres to a four-part chordal texture, though some counterpoint occurs in the brief middle section: the whole lasts only 64 bars. With drums, trumpets, and a soaring melodic line, the piece celebrates Pushkin’s orphic nature, that in his “sacred lyre” of art looms immortality.

In 1882 Taneyev received a commission from Nikolay Gubert, head of the Moscow Conservatory, to compose a piece for the All-Russian Trade Exhibition that would demonstrate Russian harmony and counterpoint. The Overture in C Major on a Russian Theme is the result, the main tune selected from the Rimsky-Korsakov collection of 100 Russian Folk Songs, particularly “Beyond the River Dar’ya.” At several points, the dramatic character of the piece resembles aspects of Beethoven and Rimsky-Korsakov’s own Russian Easter Overture or his “magical” opera overtures. The main theme undergoes fragmentation for polyphonic and sonata-form display, though a lovely folk-song aria emerges in the manner of Tchaikovsky, followed by orientalized liturgical chords and thumping accompaniment in strings and tympani. This piece only found publication in 1948, but it deserves a more popular fate, casting a warm glow, especially here, from a Siberian ensemble whose conductor raises national passions.

The Overture in D Minor (1875) stands as Taneyev’s graduation piece from the Moscow Conservatory. The opening notes, chromatic and furrowed with dark thoughts, haunt the entire composition, a true child of its musical mentor, Tchaikovsky, though the gifted orchestration and variation on one rhythmic impulse resembles more of Borodin. The blazoning of this powerful overture shook me and my audio system, so it with a sense of disbelief that I note that this effective score had been suppressed until 1955.

–Gary Lemco

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