Apparently a staple in Russia, the music of Taneyev exists on the fringes of the repertoire in the West, something that should be rectified–and will be if this superb CD made by a starry cast of performers gets the attention it deserves. He’s a Romantic composer, but hardly of the heart-on-sleeve variety, since he was a master of counterpoint and firmly encased his Romantic impulses in a well-fitted classical jacket. Sometimes he makes you think of a more modern, pungent Brahms with a Russian accent.
The 'Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major, K 364/320D' is one of those refined works that is so well written that it exudes genius. Composed for violin, viola, and orchestra the work is a conversation with the two instruments with a beautifully woven tapestry of comment for the orchestra. Violinist Midori and violist Nobuko Imai are not only well paired in technique and virtuosity, they find a compatibility of discourse that is refreshingly fine. Christoph Eschenbach conducts the Norddeutscher Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester with grace and sensitive collaboration. The work is a complete success. The Philip Wilby reconstruction of the accompanying concerto for violin and piano is a fine little piece, if not in the same realm as the Sinfonia Concertante. The performance of this uneven work makes up for the inconsistencies that arise when sonatas are adapted for orchestra. Midori again focuses on her pliant, clear technique and is matched by Christoph Eschenbach's piano role as well as his conducting. It is a minor work played in a major manner.
Sharon Bezaly / Nobuko Imai / Ronald Brautigam – leading names on their respective instruments (flute, viola and piano). One great advantage of the recording medium is that it brings together musicians who would normally be too busy to sit down and play chamber music together. Here we have a disc featuring three remarkable musicians who have pooled their resources in the performance of some highly original repertoire. Not surprisingly where the flute is concerned, much of the music originated in France. Yet here it is not a matter of nineteenth century repertoire – of which there is an almost endless quantity featuring the flute – but of works written (with one exception) during the twentieth century.