Complete Strings Quartets by Sergey Taneyev, Volume 2

Complete Strings Quartets by Sergey Taneyev, Volume 2
Complete Strings Quartets by Sergey Taneyev, Volume 2

NF/PMA 9934

Recorded in 1977 & 1978 by the St. Petersburg Recording Studio.  Sound Engineer: Gerhard Tses.  
Text: Northern Flowers.  English text: Sergey Suslov.  Design: Anastasiya Evmenova & Oleg Fakhrutdinov.
Cover: Victor Borissov-Mussatov, Slumber of a Deity (fragment), 1905


Catalogue Number:
Number of Discs:
Barcode: 4607053326512
Price: £11.99


Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev (1856–1915)


String Quartet No. 5 in A Major, Op. 13 (1903)


Allegro con spirito



Adagio espressivo



Allegro molto






String Quartet No. 7 in E Flat major (1880)





Adagio cantabile






Finale. Allegro molto



Total Time:



The S.I. Taneyev Quartet
Vladimir Ovcharek, violin
Grigory Lutzky, violin
Vissarion Solovyev, viola
Josef Levinzon, cello


Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev and His String Quartets

Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev, remarkable Russian composer, pianist, teacher, scientist, and public figure in the world of music, was born in the ancient city of Vladimir in 1856. He started his piano studies at the age of five. In 1866, he entered Moscow Conservatory (which was opened the same year) and graduated in 1875 in the classes of P.I. Tchaikovsky (Composition, gold medal) and N. G. Rubinstein (Piano). In 1875–1880, the young musician often went abroad, and stayed for long periods in Paris where he made the acquaintance of I. Turgenev, G. Flaubert, E. Zola, C. Gounod, C. Franck, C. Saint–Saëns, and many others.

From 1878 till 1905, Taneyev taught harmony, instrumentation, composition, counterpoint, and piano at Moscow Conservatory. He was its director from 1885 till 1889. Among Taneyev’s many students were Rachmaninoff, Skriabin, Medtner, and Gliere. He combined teaching with pianist activity. Sergey Ivanovich was one of the most outstanding pianists of his times. It was he who performed Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concert in Moscow for the first time. Taneyev as pianist had a tremendous repertoire and often appeared in ensembles.

Taneyev connected his fate as personality and musician with the musical life of Moscow and its Conservatory. Due to the amazing integrity and purity of his nature, Sergey Ivanovich was called “the conscience of musical Moscow” and its “apex”. He was absolutely respected by the musical community, mixing with representatives of both Moscow and Petersburg schools of composing with equal heartiness. He had vast knowledge in most diversified fields of human activity, and his friends were remarkable writers, painters, and scientists of his times. Taneyev was tied to Tchaikovsky in a longstanding sincere friendship, which manifested itself in several volumes of captivating correspondence. This is what Modest Tchaikovsky, brother of Piotr Tchaikovsky, says about Taneyev in his memoirs: “…Never in my long life have I met with a soul more perfectly pure than Sergey Ivanovich, and no one have I respected so deeply, so utterly and meaningfully for his harmonious combination of qualities triumphantly soaring above everything that belittles the human nature. Prominent artist, great teacher, and everyday person fused in Sergey Ivanovich into an integral and strictly balanced image clear as a flawless diamond.”

Sergey Ivanovich died in Dyud’kovo Village near Moscow in 1915, having caught cold at the funeral of A. N. Skriabin.

Taneyev’s music embodied the traditions of Glinka, Tchaikovsky, J. S. Bach, and composers of the Viennese school (primarily Beethoven). One of his greatest ideas in music was creation of a “Russian polyphony”, and the need for Russian music to live through a stage of contrapuntal development. He re–considered the meaning of several genres of Russian music (chamber compositions, lyrico–philosophical cantatas). Fugue was of a special importance for his creative work, where it may be found both as an independent opus and a part of an entire.

Taneyev probable had no peers in the composership level in Russian music. He was a perfect master of the polyphonic techniques of Bach and Renaissance composers, and of the art of large form architecture. His best compositions attract you with flawlessly finished details and the logic of the entire. One of the most important works of his life, the book titled “Invertible Counterpoint in the Strict Style” (1889 –1909), is of a colossal scientific and pedagogical value.

The composer’s heritage of Taneyev is large in volume and diversified in genres. He composed Oresteia, an operatic trilogy after Aeschylus; numerous cantatas for orchestra, choir, and soloists, among which are the famous St. John of Damascus and Reading the Psalms; four symphonies; instrumental concertos; 22 opuses for chamber ensemble; over 60 songs for voice and piano; choral compositions; pieces for piano; arrangements of traditional songs, and piano transcriptions of works of other authors.

Instrumental chamber music is arguably the most important and meaningful part of Taneyev’s heritage, a peak of Russian classical music. None of his contemporaries felt such acute interest for chamber instrumentalism, resulting in interpretations so diversified. In the nearly forty years of his composing career, Taneyev wrote 22 instrumental ensembles for different sets of instruments. In this genre, he was unrivalled in Russia.

His string–and–bow ensembles splendidly demonstrate Taneyev’s knowledge of expressive resources of string instruments. In these, his inventiveness reached real heights, enchanting beauty of sound, and subtlety of color effects, let alone the polyphonic skill. Taneyev managed the secret of the quartet style in a free and virtuoso manner, applying the art of combining four voices on the basis of their complete equality, interaction, and fusion. The art of quartet was the domain where the strongest aspects of Taneyev’s artistic individuality — noble spirituality, sincerity and purity of lyrical emotion, subtle and profound intellectual culture — showed itself with the utmost fullness and perfection.

The composer created most of his quartets in his mature years, and only three quartets were written in his younger days. The author, ever demanding to himself, did not publish those early etudes, considering them imperfect. They were printed in 1952 for the first time.

Northern Flowers

Quartet No. 6 in B flat major, op. 19, (1905)

The Sixth Quartet exceeds its predecessors in its flawless structure, and organic unity of all of its components. But emotionally, it is also more austere and restricted than other Quartets. Its colors are not so bounteous and plentiful.

The Quartet ’s form is perfectly proportioned, especially in its first movement, Allegro giusto. Its integrity is proved in the process of development of the main theme, which is the key image of the whole opus. A transformation of the main theme results in a cantilena by-part. That part in turn evolves into the major images of the Adagio serioso and the Jig. The architectural principle of the monothematic concept is emphasized in the closing bars of the finale by sounding the main theme in the principal key.

The second movement (Adagio serioso) is elevated and rising to pathetics, with clear signs of a ballad nature. The third movement (Molto vivace) is a jig in place of a traditional scherzo. Echoes of Russian dance music can be heard in the rapid and light motion. Taneyev skillfully applies here his favorite technique of crystallization of the first movement ’s main theme.

The finale (Allegro moderato) is somewhat motley in its array of themes, and is based on frequently varying motion and alternating growing “tides” and “ebbs”. The whole development rests on mixed incompatible images, which join the main theme all along. The last section brings everything to a synthesizing unity.

Quartet No. 9 in A major, (1883)

The initial sketches to the Quartet have been traced to the year 1881. After a break of nearly two years, Taneyev completed the piece in one month. The manuscript bears some notes by Tchaikovsky who looked through the Quartet by the author ’s request.

The publisher assigned a number to the Quartet conventionally, as Taneyev only published six quartets with assigned numbers. This composition is the third on the list of the three early unpublished quartets. The music of the first two movements irresistibly attracts you with its hearty warmth and melodic fascination resembling some lyrical pages of Tchaikovsky. A scherzo and a finale close the Quartet in the manner of merry Russian folk dances.

P. I. Tchaikovsky approved the etude of his student. About the Quartet ’s first movement, he wrote, “All this movement is very elegant ”, and his comment on the second one was, “Looks like it will sound good ”. Especially praised was the Scherzo: “A remarkably successful and lovely piece ”.

The Quartet was never performed in public in Taneyev ’s lifetime, and was played only once in a home concert.

After S.I. Taneyev, a book by G. Bernandt

The S. I. Taneyev Quartet

Vladimir Ovcharek, violin
Grigory Lutzky, violin
Vissarion Solovyev, viola
Josef Levinzon, cello


The S. I. Taneyev Quartet’s debut performance was at the Minor Hall of Leningrad Conservatory in 1946. Its musicians were second-year students of the Conservatory at the time. Vladimir Ovcharek, Grigory Lutzky, and Vissarion Solovyev have been playing in the ensemble since the day of its foundation (since 1946), and Josef Levinzon joined the quartet in 1967. The Quartet was named after Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev in 1963.

In the many decades of its existence, the Quartet, rightly considered to be one of the best ensembles of the Soviet Union, has performed over 6,000 concerts in dozens of cities of the USSR, in many European countries, in the United States, and in Japan. Among the partners of the legendary ensemble were D. Oystrakh, S. Richter, M. Rostropovich, B. Davidovich, N. Petrov, M. Pletnev, E. Virsaladze, and other famous musicians of our days.

The S. I. Taneyev Quartet has released numerous records that are now in the golden treasury of the world recording. Among them are collections of quartets of Beethoven, Shostakovich, Miaskowski, and Taneyev, and compositions of Salmanov, Slonimsky, and Falik. The ensemble performed many premieres of quartets of today’s authors, such as Agafonnikov, Basner, and Balakhov. Dmitry Shostakovich entrusted the premiere performance of his last quartet, the Fifteenth, to the Taneyev Quartet.

Back to Top