Good morning (and for American followers, Happy Thanksgiving!) and welcome back to a week of Russian composers. While we have focused more on Russian nationalism and 19th century Orientalism, there were many composers at the time who went against the tide. So today I want to side-step to one of my favorite ‘unusual’ cases; Sergei Taneyev. While the other great Russians worked on orchestral music, he preferred chamber music. He also focused more on counterpoint and followed a “German” influence (similar to Tchaikovsky’s musical aesthetic, which earned him criticism from the contemporary Five). And at a time where Russian opera was mostly fairy tales with fantastic characters and situations, or detailed episodes in Russian history, Taneyev wrote an operatic version of The Oresteia, a trilogy of tragedies by Aeschylus; Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides. While writing the Oresteia overture, Taneyev felt that the music was too lengthy and gave away too many of the main dramatic moments, so he substituted it for a modest prelude, and flushed the overture out into a symphonic poem. The music is episodic, but it shows more of a Wagnerian influence with its rising and falling climaxes, full of intensity and drama.
Stay tuned for more Russian composers this week on musicainextenso
- Nick O., guest editor