Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev (1856-1915)

Episodes

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01Child Prodigy20140203

Donald Macleod explains why Taneyev was dubbed 'the Russian Bach' by Tchaikovsky.

He was a brilliant pianist, a distinctive composer, a theorist and eminent teacher, and dubbed by Tchaikovsky as the Russian Bach. Donald Macleod, with Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson, explores the life and music of Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev. Young Taneyev was a child prodigy, and it was Nikolai Rubinstein who recognised that the boy would go on to be an excellent pianist and a great composer.

Taneyev studied under Tchaikovsky at the Moscow Conservatoire and was the first student to graduate from there with the Gold Medal in both performance and composition. As an excellent pianist whose Moscow concerts were seen as significant cultural occasions, he went on to premiere a number of works by Tchaikovsky, and even advised the older composer in matters of composition. Tchaikovsky recommended that Taneyev succeed him as tutor at the Moscow Conservatoire, where he would go on to teach Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Medtner and Gliere. At the age of twenty-nine, Taneyev was appointed as director of the Conservatoire, and went on to save it from financial ruin. Amongst this busy life, Taneyev composed much for orchestra, chamber ensembles and for voices, but left relatively few works for his own instrument, the piano.

Suite de Concert, Op 28 (Prelude)

Ilya Kaler, violin

Russian Philharmonic Orchestra

Thomas Sanderling, conductor

The world sleeps, Op 17 No 10

Ekaterina Sementchuk, mezzo-soprano

Larissa Gergieva, piano

Stalactites, Op 26 No 6

Scherzo in E flat minor

Olga Solovieva, piano

Scherzo in C major

Overture in D minor

Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra

Symphony No 1 in E minor (4th mvt)

Russian State Symphony Orchestra

Valeri Polyansky, conductor

Producer: Luke Whitlock.

02Taneyev Succeeds Tchaikovsky20140204

Donald Macleod focuses on Taneyev's succeeding Tchaikovsky at the Moscow Conservatoire.

He was a brilliant pianist, a distinctive composer, a theorist and eminent teacher, and dubbed by Tchaikovsky as the Russian Bach. Donald Macleod, with Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson, explores the life and music of Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev.

Taneyev has unfortunately often been remembered as a dry and academic composer, but many of his works, such as the Scherzo from his String Trio in D major, dispel that view. Taneyev as a youthful graduate from the Moscow Conservatoire, travelled Europe with Nickolai Rubinstein. Once he returned to Russia, he made a plan to study more Mozart and also Wagner, although his Symphony No 2, shows more influences from his former teacher and friend Tchaikovsky.

It was Tchaikovsky who suggested that Taneyev should succeed him as professor of counterpoint at the Moscow Conservatoire in 1878. It was a post he would keep for nearly thirty years, and was regarded as the institutions "finest adornment". He made his debut as a composer with his Cantata for the unveiling of a Pushkin memorial, but it was his next large choral work John of Damascus, which demonstrates Taneyev's interest in early choral counterpoint.

String Trio in D major (2nd mvt)

Leopold String Trio

Venice at Night, Op 9 No 1

Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor

Graham Johnson, piano

Hugo D'Alton, mandolin

Symphony No 2 in B flat major (3rd mvt)

Russian State Symphony Orchestra

Valeri Polyansky, conductor

Cantata on Pushkin's Exegi Monumentum

Novosibirsk Academic Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra

Thomas Sanderling, conductor

John of Damascus Op 1

Russian State Symphonic Cappella

Russian State Symphonic Orchestra

Producer: Luke Whitlock.

03Taneyev And Wagner20140205

Donald Macleod on Taneyev's completion of his opera on Greek mythology, The Oresteia.

He was a brilliant pianist, a distinctive composer, a theorist and eminent teacher, and dubbed by Tchaikovsky as the Russian Bach. Donald Macleod, with Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson, explores the life and music of Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev.

Taneyev had inherited a keen interest in Greek mythology from his father. It is no surprise that his only opera set Aeschylus's tragic trilogy, The Oresteia. Tchaikovsky could not understand why Taneyev would write an opera on such a theme, something he thought was far removed from the everyday Russian person. The opera failed to enter into the permanent repertoire.

Taneyev was now exceptionally busy as a teacher at the Moscow Conservatoire. At the age of twenty-nine, he was invited to become the institution's Director and went on to not only raise academic standards, but save it from financial ruin. Composing had to be fitted into the summer months and his opera took many years to complete. It was Tchaikovsky who secured a performance date for Taneyev's stagework, forcing the composer to complete it. During this period Taneyev did find time to compose some smaller works, such as his present for Tchaikovsky's birthday, a little piece for piano four hands, quoting a number of Tchaikovsky's own works.

Canzona

Stanislav Jankovsky, clarinet

Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra

Thomas Sanderling, conductor

String Quartet in A major (3rd mvt)

The Leningrad Taneiev Quartet

Overture, The Oresteia, Op 6

The Philharmonia

Neeme Jarvi, conductor

The Composer's Birthday, for piano four hands

Joseph Banowetz, piano

Adam Wodnicki, piano

The Oresteia (Act III Scene III)

Ludmilla Ganestova, soprano (Pallas Athene)

Ivan Dubrovin, tenor (Orestes)

Chorus of the Belorussian State Opera and Ballet Theatre

Orchestra of the Belorussian State Opera and Ballet Theatre

Tatiana Kolomizheva, conductor

Producer: Luke Whitlock.

04Romantic Entanglements20140206

Donald Macleod discusses Taneyev's various romantic entanglements.

He was a brilliant pianist, a distinctive composer, a theorist and eminent teacher, and dubbed by Tchaikovsky as the Russian Bach. Donald Macleod, with Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson, explores the life and music of Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev.

Taneyev cut quite a dashing image. On more than one occasion, married women became infatuated with him, including Leo Tolstoy's wife, which caused much jealousy. Taneyev was often invited to the Tolstoy's house, where he'd play piano duets with Leo Tolstoy, and discuss Wagner. Wagner's Ring Cycle had made a great impression upon Taneyev, which can be clearly heard in the Entr'acte from his opera The Oresteia.

Although Taneyev had now given up his position of Director at the Moscow Conservatoire, he still taught there. Numbered amongst his students were Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Lyapunov and Gliere. With his resignation of the Directorship, Taneyev now found more time to compose, including his Symphony No 3 which he dedicated to his friend and fellow composer, Arensky. Taneyev was also turning his attention more and more to chamber music, including his String Quartet No 5.

I awaited you in the grotto

The Valery Rybin Choir

Evgueni Talisman, piano

Valery Rybin, director

Entr'acte from The Oresteia (Act III Scene II)

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

Vladimir Ashkenazy, conductor

Symphony No 3 (4th mvt)

Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra

Thomas Sanderling, conductor

Not the wind from on high, Op 17 No 5

Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone

Ivari Ilja, piano

Anxiously beats the Heart, Op 17 No 9

String Quartet No 5 in A major, Op 13

Vladimir Ovcharek, violin

Grigory Lutzky, violin

Vissarion Solovyev, viola

Josef Levinzon, cello

Luke Whitlock.

05 LASTTaneyev Catches A Chill20140207

Donald Macleod explores Taneyev's final years, when he was preoccupied with chamber music.

He was a brilliant pianist, a distinctive composer, a theorist and eminent teacher, and dubbed by Tchaikovsky as the Russian Bach. Donald Macleod, with Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson, explores the life and music of Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev.

Vasili Safonov was Director of the Moscow Conservatoire at the start of the twentieth century, and he was a man Taneyev just didn't get on with. Taneyev did not agree with Safonov's changes to the curriculum, or his treatment of the revolutionary students in 1905. After nearly thirty years service to the conservatoire, Taneyev resigned. This gave him more opportunity to write music, such as his popular Piano Quintet in G minor.

Chamber music was a preoccupation for Taneyev in his latter years, but he also turned to one last cantata called On the reading of the Psalm. This he eventually completed in the year of his death. One bitterly cold day, Taneyev attended the funeral of one of his students, Scriabin. Taneyev was lightly clad and not wearing a hat, and he subsequently became ill and suffered with a heart attack and died. He didn't get to hear a performance of his final cantata.

Music, when soft voices die, Op 17 No 3

Vassily Savenko, bass-baritone

Alexander Blok, piano

Evening, Op 27 No 2

Houston Chamber Choir

Robert Simpson, conductor

Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor, Op 29

Olga Kern, piano

Piano Quintet in G minor Op 30 (2nd mvt)

Vadim Repin, violin

Ilya Gringolts, violin

Nobuko Imai, viola

Lynn Harrell, cello

Mikhail Pletnev, piano

On the Reading of the Psalm Op 36 (3rd mvt)

Lolita Semenina, soprano

Marianna Tarassova, alto

Mikhail Gubsky, tenor

Andrei Baturkin, bass

St Petersburg State Academic Capella Choir

Boys Choir of the Glinka Choral College

Russian national Orchestra

Mikhail Pletnev, conductor

Producer: Luke Whitlock.