Sergey Taneyev: String Quartets, Vol. 3 – Quartets nos 5 & 7 / Carpe Diem Quartet

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Sergey Taneyev's String Quartet No. 7 in E flat major that opens the program on this Naxos CD was written in 1903. The opening movement is beautiful, and there is an almost Mozartean sophistication and elegance in its classical styling. In other aspects, such as the relaxed form and more free harmonic expression, it can't be confused with any product of the Viennese School (referring to the First here of course, not the Second). In case you've missed earlier installments, this is volume three in the ongoing series of Taneyev String Quartets performed by the excellent Carpe Diem Quartet.

Early on, Taneyev (1856-1915) was a well respected composer and brilliant pianist becoming the first student in the history of the Moscow Conservatory to win the gold medal for both piano performance and composition. He was later entrusted to perform the Moscow premieres of all three Tchaikovsky piano concertos!

At he heart of Taneyev's output is chamber music, which accounts for better than half his thirty-odd opuses; eleven of these are string quartets. Stylistically, his music does not continue the Russian Nationalistic movement established in the prior generation by the "Mighty Five" (Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov). In fact, he publicly and famously rejected those composers' music - for a time at least - adopting for himself a more European musical language based upon traditional form and technique over emotional expression. He possessed a tremendous compositional skill set, evident in the tight formal construction of each movement, his fluid harmonic progressions and melodic invention, and most notably, his ability to weave elaborate and fascinating counterpoint into the fabric of the music. He was a serious student of the music of Bach, Palestrina and Ockeghem, and if you follow the individual voices, you can sense that the music all grows from a lean and carefully worked out contrapuntal base.

The sample provided for you to hear is the fourth movement Presto from the String Quartet No. 5. which will give you a good feeling for the for how this finely crafted music sounds. You can also hear further samples from several movements on the video below. This superb recording, with its low Naxos price point, could hardly be more highly recommended.

Below are some sample tracks from this album to help you get a better idea of how these Taneyev Quartets sound.