TANEYEV; GLAZUNOV String Quintets
Taneyev and Glazunov were the two opposite extremes of their generation in Russia. Taneyev was the stern artistic conscience of the Western-facing Moscow school, immersing himself in counterpoint and classical myth. Glazunov was the golden boy of the St Petersburg nationalists, heir to Rimsky-Korsakov’s sense of instrumental colour and blessed with a seemingly bottomless well of lyrical melody.
So much for preconceptions. This attractive disc of string quintets from the Gringolts Quartet and (real luxury-casting, this) cellist Christian Poltéra finds Taneyev at his most melodically engaging and Glazunov at his most ideally proportioned. True, where Taneyev uses his extra cello to add depth and complexity to a muscular thematic argument, Glazunov stirs it into his already-sweet textures like double cream. But there’s a balletic charm to the 10 variations that make up Taneyev’s enormous (just shy of 20 minutes) finale; Glazunov, meanwhile, solves the problem of making his last movement ‘go’ with a freshness and verve that’s by no means a given in his chamber music.
It helps that the Gringolts Quartet approach both works with such obvious affection. The Taneyev is up against the Martinů Quartet’s recent account and here Ilya Gringolts’s glowing tone and liquid grace score highly. Listen to the expressive but unaffected way he handles the little cadenza at the end of Var 5 (helpfully, BIS gives each variation its own track listing). Gringolts is never more than first among equals, however, and the Quintet’s sunset coda is lovingly handled, the individual strands of the texture beautifully caught in BIS’s warm, transparent sound.
Their Glazunov feels if anything even more intimate, with a way of lingering over the first movement’s long, singing phrases that gives it a touchingly self-conscious quality. If it doesn’t perhaps flow with quite the sense of forward momentum that the Nash Ensemble achieve, this is nonetheless true chamber-music playing, alert to Glazunov’s jewel-box colours (the Scherzo is particularly delicious) and with a real feeling of give and take between five committed players. Aficionados of either composer will certainly want to hear this recording – and it would make a perfect entry point to the chamber music of Russia’s Silver Age.