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An Intellectual Force

Piano music by
Sergei Taneyev -
reviewed by

'Performances are expert and loving throughout ...'

Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev: Piano music. © 2006 Toccata Classics

Medtner has been archly dubbed 'Rachmaninov without the melodies'. Substitute Tchaikovsky for Rachmaninov and Sergei Taneyev might be similarly, and even more appropriately described. Glib and not entirely fair in either case of course, but both composers were indeed better at using their substantial musical skills for construction than they were at creating memorable underlying musical phrases.

Taneyev was an intellectual force, widely respected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He studied with Tchaikovsky, who chose him to premier a majority of his works for piano and orchestra and chamber works for piano. (The older composer both welcomed and feared his student's criticism. During one session, Tchaikovsky tore a copy of his 5th symphony in half and ran from the room!) Taneyev taught Medtner, Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Glière among others, and inherited many of the academic responsibilities of both Tchaikovsky and Nickolai Rubinstein at the Moscow Conservatory. His interests extended into the literary world as well, and he knew Turgenev, Zola and Tolstoy (whose wife adored him, which was probably a major factor in the plotting of the author's novella, The Kreutzer Sonata). All of this seems ample material for a biography, but the only book-length studies appear to be in Russian and untranslated.

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Copyright © 8 January 2008 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


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