Tuesday 10 May 2016

The Gringolts Quartet with second cellist, Christian Poltéra provide a very fine disc for BIS of String Quintets by Taneyev and Glazunov that deserve to be better known

An important figure in Russian music, Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915) studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Nicolai Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky, later becoming its director. His pupils included Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Gliere. Unlike The Five or Mighty Handful, the group of five Russian composers consisting of César Cui, Alexander Borodin, Mily Balakirev, Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Taneyev was drawn to Western influences such as Bach and the Renaissance contrapuntalists.

His works include opera, choral works, orchestral works including four symphonies, chamber and instrumental works including eleven string quarters and three quintets.

It is his String Quintet No.1 that the Gringolts Quartet www.gringoltsquartet.com with second cellist, Christian Poltéra www.christianpoltera.com have recorded for BIS Records www.bis.se coupled with Alexander Glazunov’s String Quintet in A major.

BIS - 2177
Dating from 1901, Sergei Taneyev’s String Quintet No.1 in G major, Op.14 was revised before its publication on 1904.

Gringolts Quartet and Christian Poltéra bring a fine fluency and lovely shaping to the Allegro con spirito, finding so many little details as the music dashes ahead. These players provide some lovely textures in the quieter moments, exhibiting terrific control as this music rises and falls, a tautness that is rather fine, revealing all of the quickly changing facets of this music.

The Vivace con fuoco brings some incisive playing, though never with any rough edges, always retaining a fine texture. Their ensemble is superb as they tautly move around every twist and turn. There are some lovely little moments part way, often gentler and quieter before the quintet builds again through some incisive passages, before a sudden acceleration to the coda.

They introduce a lovely wistful melody as they open the Tema con variazioni – bringing a beautifully light texture with some exquisitely turned phrases, lightly pointed up as these variations progress. They bring a great vibrancy with some beautifully done light bowing. There are beautiful textures as well as moments of fleeting delicacy as well as some exquisitely turned phrases. There is passion and emotion and richer sonorities, in fact all you could wish for in these finely conceived variations, each player adding to the quite lovely textures before weaving a beautiful fugue in the penultimate variation.  There is a brief quote from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, Sadko as the final variation is reached, a gentler variation, with some lovely little textural details.

This is a very fine performance indeed of an attractive work in which these players find many beautiful moments.

If Taneyev was central to musical life in Moscow, it was Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) that held a position of equal importance in the musical life of St. Petersburg. He studied privately with Rimsky-Korsakov and had his first symphony performed when aged just 16 years. He became Director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1905 and remained there until leaving the Soviet Union in 1928. His only stage works were ballets of which the most well-known is The Seasons (1900). He went on to complete eight symphonies, with a ninth left incomplete, as well as a large number of other orchestral works including two piano concertos and his often performed Concerto in A minor for violin and orchestra (1904). He also wrote choral works and instrumental works as well as chamber works that include seven string quartets.

Alexander Glazunov’s String Quintet in A major, Op.39 dates from 1891/1892 placing it between his third and fourth symphonies. It was premiered at one of the regular Friday evening concerts held at the house of businessman, music publisher and supporter of Russian music, Mitrofan Belyayev (1836-1904).

In four movements, the quintet opens with a finely shaped Allegro where this quintet brings their fine sonority before rising in some gently passionate phrases. There are some wonderfully turned faster passages with this quintet finding a lovely ebb and flow. They often find a sparkle, a real joy in the many sunny moments.

The Scherzo. Allegro moderato brings gentle pizzicato phrases over a longer held line, delicately and beautifully done, delightfully played. The music slows to more of a walking pace as a note of seriousness intrudes but is interrupted by a faster passage, becoming a little more light-hearted. These players bring a really taut vibrancy before a pizzicato passage brings the coda.

There is a beautifully drawn, nostalgic opening to the Andante Sostenuto, rising quickly through the most lovely moments as the melody grows, these players finding some lovely rich, glowing textures and sonorities. Indeed they find a variety of textures as they bring a lovely control to the ever changing emotional expression.

They move ahead purposefully in the Finale. Allegro moderato with finely incisive playing and terrific ensemble as this movement develops. They achieve a fine rhythmic pulse through faster passages before arriving at a lovely gentler moment with a beautifully controlled flow. The music soon picks up to move quickly to the coda.

This is a very fine disc of two Russian works that deserve to be better known.  These artists receive a clear and detailed recording from the SRF Studio, Zürich, Switzerland and there are useful booklet notes. 

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