Of the two recordings of Sergey Taneyev's Symphonies No. 1 and No. 3 released in 2007-2008, Valery Polyansky's with the Russian State Symphony Orchestra on Chandos and Thomas Sanderling's with the Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra on Naxos, Sanderling's emerges as clearly superior. The Novosibirsk players, while lacking some technique, seem more dedicated, both to the music and their conductor. Sanderling elicits powerful performances of Taneyev's odd-numbered symphonies.
In Polyansky's performance, as in most, Taneyev's music comes off as lacking in individuality. But under Sanderling, the First and Third symphonies sound strong willed, clear eyed, and altogether like the work of a singular musical mind. It's true that Taneyev's First and Third don't sound like the nationalist symphonies of his contemporaries Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. But set against the internationalist symphonies of Tchaikovsky, Taneyev's mentor and friend, his First and Third, with their robust themes, vigorous counterpoint, and rigorous developments assume their true stature as works of strength, seriousness, and integrity -- traits they plainly share with their composer. By clearly revealing the character of the music and the composer, Sanderling has done something no other conductor in the digital age has done: redeemed Taneyev's reputation. Anyone interested in Russian late Romantic music is urged to check out this disc. Recorded in the Studio of the West Siberian Radio in Novosibirsk, the digital sound here is rich, clear, and deep.