Carpe Diem String Quartet

Taneyev: Complete String Quartets, Vol. 1

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Sergey Taneyev, a superbly educated, tremendously talented, and incredibly hard-working Russian Silver Age composer, was so acutely self-critical that he allowed very little of his music to be published or performed in his lifetime. Unfortunately, this has made a total hash of his oeuvre. Did Taneyev write one symphony or four? Six string quartets or nine? And if he did write four symphonies and nine quartets but allowed only one symphony and six quartets to be published and performed, should contemporary performers play them all or just those the composer found worthy? Russia's Taneyev Quartet recorded all nine quartets in the only previous series of the works previously issued, and the Carpe Diem Quartet is clearly headed in the same direction with this 2007 release of the First and Third quartets; it is announced as the first in a series of all nine. Compared with the Taneyev, the Carpe Diem is lighter, cleaner, more lyrical, and more rhythmic, an approach that works wonderfully well in the fast, odd-numbered movements of the First Quartet and both movements of the Third Quartet. It works less well in the slow, even-numbered movements of the First Quartet where the Russian group's intensity arguably gets them deeper under the emotional skin of the music. For neophytes, both approaches have their merits, but the Americans' warmer digital sound may tip the balance in their favor. For those who already know the earlier recordings, the chance to hear another series of performances of Taneyev's quartets will eagerly be embraced.

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