TANEYEV: Violin Sonata (1911); Romance, Op. 26, No. 6 for Violin and Piano; Piano Music, 1874-1910 – Ivan Peshkov, violin/Olga Solovieva, piano – Naxos 8.557804, 72:41 **** :
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.