TANEYEV: Piano Trio, Op. 22; RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Piano Trio in C minor – Leonore Piano Trio – Hyperion CDA 68159, 77:58, ****:
Sizzling performance of two late Romantic piano trios.
In addition to becoming significant Russian composers, both Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915) and Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov (1844-1908) taught many others: Glazunov, Myaskovsky, Stravinsky, Rachmaninov and Gliere, to name a few. Taneyev was the soloist in almost all of Tchaikovsky’s works for piano and orchestra. Rimsky-Korsakov sought technical advice from the Russian master.
At age ten Taneyev enrolled as a pianist at the Moscow Conservatory and after three years became Tchaikovsky’s student. When Tchaikovsky resigned from this institution, Taneyev took his place at age 22. He concentrated on writing over a dozen works for chamber music, some of them with piano so he could perform them. He was a maverick compared to his Russian contemporaries because his music was based on Renaissance polyphony and Bachian counterpoint rather than folk melodies from his homeland. Schumann and Brahms were also influences. He composed slowly, focusing on formal design and contrapuntal textures.
The Piano Trio of 1907 starts boldly with strong piano chords contrasted with lyrical string motives. Tanyevev’s contrapuntal mastery results in a sonata-allegro first movement that alternates melody with dramatic surges. The inventive Scherzo is a playful and impulsive theme and variations. The Leonore Trio’s brilliant and exciting traversal of this movement is a highlight of the disc. An ardent slow movement features a dialogue between the cello and violin interspersed with piano chords. A stirring and expressive Finale summarizes the work.
It took the composer Maximilian Steinberg (Rimsky-Korsakov’s son-in-law) to complete and publish the 1908 Piano Trio of Rimsky-Korsakov. “I composed a string quartet in G major and a trio for violin, cello and piano in C minor. The latter composition remained unfinished, and both of these compositions proved to me that chamber music was not my field, the composer wrote. The mellifluous melodious content of the first movement puts us in debt to the Leonore Trio for recording this attractive and serious work. The humorously skittish Scherzo sizzles and plaintively rhapsodizes. The Adagio is a somber contrast, yet the melodic content is of exceptional pulchritude. The pensive and slow beginning of the Finale belies the creatively of this 15 minute movement. Sections of persistent drama, a pensive piano solo, a deeply felt cello and violin duet and a thrilling climax make this an irresistible piano trio.
The thrilling performances of the Leonore Piano make these late Romantic works come alive and Hyperion has provided their usual superb sonics.
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