The bass gloomily strides on its way, steadily descending, insistently repeated, from time to time with increasing energy and urgency. Hard to believe that it was not until 1910 that the first passacaglia made its appearance in Russian music. And of course it was Sergei Taneyev who combined this magnificent formal model from the baroque era with an original Slavic tone. The slow movement of his piano quintet is perhaps the high point of this majestic and mighty work in this rendering by Olga Gollej and the brilliant Leipzig String Quartet. The Song Cycle op. 34 is a welcome complement, and here the Russian mezzosoprano Marina Prudenskaya offers generous vocal support.
Each of these two works was the last of its genre committed to paper by Taneyev. And in both his compositional artistry so great that it caused amazement even among his contemporaries manifests itself. This music builds on an outstanding knowledge of music history – combined with the experiences of a fulfilled artist’s life.
The piano quintet also profits from the composer’s brilliance as a pianist. This hardly comes as surprise since Taneyev was the soloist who first performed Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in Russia during his younger years. The effect produced by this work is magnificent in the truest sense of the term: the greatest dynamic contrasts, an unparalleled tonal intensity, and all of this in sweeping dimensions posing an enthralling challenge to the musicians, who master this task with bravura.
The songs too are rich in expression conveyed in special measure by way of the most deeply poetic and allusive texts. Of the highest contrapuntal mastery, they impressively spotlight the much-lauded Russian soul.
Even those who do not know Russian will be most deeply moved. The ARD prizewinner Marina Prudenskaya’s wonderful mezzo-soprano voice conveys a most highly expressive, universal message. Whether deep emotion or high drama, the musicians involve themselves with uncompromising passion in Taneyev’s rousing emotional world – a genuinely stellar and stirring experience for listening audiences everywhere!