Taneyev Sergei


Sergei Taneyev (November 25, 1856, Vladimir — June 19, 1915, near Zvenigorod) - Russian composer, pianist, teacher, music theorist, musical and public figure.
Younger brother of the lawyer Vladimir Taneyev.

Sergei Taneyev occupies a very special place in the Russian music on the cusp of centuries. The outstanding public figure, teacher, pianist, Taneyev was a recognized authority in the cultural life of his time, the first major musicologist in Russia. However, the main activity of his life, composing, was slow to find true recognition.

The family supported the boy's early musical talent, and in 1866, he was assigned to the newly opened Moscow Conservatory. There Taneyev became a student of Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Nikolai Rubinstein, two of the greatest figures in musical Russia. Even during his student years, Taneyev the pianist began to perform. Taneyev, the composer ventured in the most difficult genre - he wrote a symphony. In 1875, Sergei brilliantly graduated from the Conservatory, receiving Great Gold Medal. In the summer of the same year, at the invitation of Rubinstein, the graduate went on the educational journey to Athens and the cities of Italy with his teacher. In the autumn, Taneyev - the pianist began actively performing on tours in Russia – he was concerting in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kharkov and other cities.

On the advice of Nikolai Rubinstein, he left for Paris in October 1876. In Paris, Taneyev regularly visited the singer Pauline Viardot, where he met Ivan Turgenev, Gustave Flaubert and famous French musicians. While visiting Camille Saint-Saens, he performed Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. He returned to Moscow in the summer of 1877.

Sergey started teaching rather early. From the age of 21 he taught theoretical disciplines at the Moscow Conservatory (harmony, polyphony, musical forms), composition, and gave piano classes as well. Having become a professor, Taneyev did not change his habit of studying on his own. He enthusiastically immerses himself in solving ingenious counterpoint problems. In 1878, cardinal changes took place in the life of Sergei Taneyev. His friend and teacher Pyotr Tchaikovsky, tired of teaching, decided to pursue composition. He persuaded Taneyev, who by that time was only 22 years old, to take on his conservatory teaching load, which included a course in harmony, polyphony, analysis of musical forms and orchestration. In 1881 after the death of Nikolai Rubinstein, having got the post of professor, Sergei added the piano classes of his favourite teacher to his academic load. In 1884, on the recommendation of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Taneyev was assigned the Conservatory director and remained on that position for four years. He aspired to reinterpretation of the European musical tradition on the native Russian identity. In general, as the young composer believed, Russian music lacked historical distinctness; it should assimilate the experience of classical European forms - primarily polyphonic ones. Being the student and follower of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Taneyev found his own path, synthesizing romantic lyricism and classicist chastity of expression. This combination is very important for Taneyev style, it is characteristic even for the earliest composing attempts. One of his best works was the cantata "John of Damascus" (1884), which launched the beginning for a secular variety of this genre in the Russian music. His composing legacy was profound. The recordings of Taneyev piano performances, made at the end of the 19th century on paraffin cylinders, have been preserved. As a pianist, he was not only famous for his unique aureole of virtuosity, but could convey to the smallest detail what the author had in mind. As a musicologist, he wrote scientific works that retain their relevance and significance nowadays. As a teacher, he was a personality with bright charisma, outstanding and singular man, it was considered a great success to be enlisted to his class. Taneyev was considered worthy of emulation. In the memoirs of his close associates and contemporaries, he was called "the musical conscience of Moscow."

In September 1905, due to the conflict with the new Conservatory director Vasily Safonov, Taneyev retired from his beloved institution. All his 249 students pleaded him to return - Taneyev was the Conservatory sacrament whom they loved. Hence, Sergei decision to retire was firm. The most extensive section of the Taneyev creative work was his compositions for the choir. He wrote thirty-seven a cappella choirs and about ten vocal ensembles, often performed like choirs. The recognized pinnacle of Taneyev choral composing is the cycle “Twelve choirs a cappella for mixed voices”, op. 27. In his writings, Taneyev tended towards moral and philosophical problems. Such, for example, is his only opera, "Oresteia" (1894), based on the cognominal tragedy by Aeschylus - an example of the ancient plot implemented in Russian music. His consort compositions (trios, quartets, quintets) are among the best examples of this genre in Russian music. Besides, he became the pioneer in the genre of lyrico-philosophical cantata in Russian music (John of Damascus “After Reading a Psalmus”). He revived the genre popular in Russian music of the 17th-18th centuries - a cappella choirs (the author of more than 40 choirs). He attached particular importance to the intonational unity of the cycle, monothematism (The 4th symphony, consort ensembles) In the instrumental music. He composed romances as well.

The musician he did not succeeded in his personal life. He did not have a family or children. The only love of his life that is known about was the wife of the artist Albert Benois - Maria Karlovna. She was a talented pianist, graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and raised four children. The composer lived with his parents, after the death of his mother and until his own death - with the nanny. The last year in the composer life was 1915. At the funeral of Alexander Scriabin, who died on April 4, 1915, Taneyev came with a cold and got a complication, the cold turned into pneumonia, and two months later he died. He was buried in the necropolis of the Donskoy Monastery in Moscow. In 1940 the remains were carried to the Novodevichy cemetery.

Ref.: Tolstoy Sergei Lvovich. Essays of the Past. A series of literary memoirs. - 2nd ed. - M.: Fiction, 1956.- 400
Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev: Personality, creativity and documents of his life. On the 10th anniversary of his death 1915-1925. T. 2 / Ed. prof. K.A. Kuznetsova. - M.; L .: Muzsektor, 1925.