Symphonies Nos. 2 and 4/Taneyev

April 29, 2010

Sergey Taneyev known as the “Russian Brahms,” wrote 4 symphonies but only his last was given an opus number and performed during his lifetime, conducted by Alexander Glazunov in 1898 in its premiere performance. Taneyev, who contracted pneumonia attending the cold wet funeral of Scrabin and died 2 months later, spent 20 years writing a book on counterpoint, a style he worked hard on. This was a work of a mature composer, master of counterpoint, well developed, yet relatively unknown and seldom performed. The first movement is a good example of counterpoint with each melody being answered and contrary to the objections of Taneyev a very Brahms sounding work. If any of these melodies are Russian based I certainly cannot hear anything. It also introduces the tritone melody which the listener will hear over and over throughout this 40 minute work. Both the heartfelt Andante and the bright Scherzo are well orchestrated with the 4th movement being a rousing finale of the first order. This C minor symphony will grow on you with repeated listens. It is certainly a work that belongs in your collection.

While Tchaikovsky had a lot of praise for his second symphony, Taneyev wrote the material during the 1877-78 time frame but never finished the work considering it a student exercise, thus no opus number. 100 years later after Blok had reworked the material it was given its premiere in 1977 minus a scherzo as it had never been written. Even though I remembered very little of the work I found it to be quite pleasant to listen to. A bit more of the Russian influence, a little on the heavy side, but very well structured and orchestrated. I felt that it was much more than a student work and I’m glad Blok completed it.

This recording with Sanderling and the Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra falls a little short of the available 1992 Chandos recording with Jarvi and The New Philharmonia. However, the Second Symphony is a much nicer second selection than the Oresteia Overture and with the value of Naxos recordings this is one that is hard to pass on.

Track Listing:

Symphony No. 2 in B flat major

1… Introduction and Allegro(15:28)

2…Andante (12:47)

3…Allegro (9:09)

Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 12

4…Allegro Molto (12:49)

5…Adagio (11:44)

6…Scherzo: Vivace (6:06)

7…Finale: Allegro energico-molto maestoso (10:20)

Total Time is 78:22

Thomas Sanderling conducts the Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra

Naxos CD# is 8.572067

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