Piano Quintet in g minor, Op.30
One of Russia's greatest composers from the last half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, one of its greatest pianists, and one of its greatest teachers. This is Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915), whose music is perhaps the least known of any great Russian composer from this period. Taneyev graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1875, the first student to win a gold medal both in composition and performance. Although a brilliant pianist, he opted for a career as a composer and teacher and soon became a professor at the Conservatory. Among his many students were Gliere, Rachmaninov, Gretchaninov, Scriabin and Medtner. In Russian concert halls, one always finds a bust of Taneyev alongside those of Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. Sadly, the fame of this outstanding composer has not spread beyond his homeland.
The Piano Quintet in g minor was composed in 1910-11. It is a colossal, monumental work. Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music describes it as "The crowning glory of Taneyev's chamber works with piano, a work permeated with profound thought and inward pathos." The massive opening movement, which by itself lasts more than 20 minutes, begins with a very lengthy, pensive and slow introduction, Mesto, which while sad also gives off air of mystery, a feeling that something is impending. The character of main part of the movement, Allegro, is by turns vigorous, resolute and lyrical, but overall the mood remains dark. The second movement, Presto, is a march-like scherzo. The sparkling percussive nature of the rhythms is very impressive. The trio section could not present a great contrast with its slow, almost languid, lovely, lyrical melody. In the third movement, a Largo which is essentially a passacaglia with variations, Taneyev demonstrates why he was universally regarded as one of the great musical architects of all time. The main theme is a tragic tone poem which is supported by a never varying ostinato in the cello. Above it, Taneyev produces a constantly changing set of images and emotional contrasts. The huge finale, Allegro vivace, is filled with dramatic tension from its opening measures to its thrilling conclusion.
Superlatives do scant justice to this incredible masterpiece from the Romantic Russian chamber music literature. It is an extraordinary work by any standard. Long out of print, we are very pleased to make it available once again and hope to draw it to the attention of amateurs and professionals everywhere.