This concert features perhaps the least and the best-known works in our series. Tchaikovsky’s first
piece of chamber music, the first string quartet, includes one of his most famous movements, Andante
cantabile. On hearing the incredibly moving melody for the first time, Tolstoy is said to have burst into tears.
In contrast, Taneyev’s piano quintet is most definitely unjustly neglected. Composed in 1911, it has the scale of a symphony and demands great virtuosity from all the performers. We are delighted to welcome Peter Donohoe and the Navarra Quartet to take on the challenge! Known as the ‘Russian Brahms’, Taneyev was best known in his lifetime as a pianist (premiering Tchaikovsky’s second piano concerto and piano trio) and teacher – his pupils included Rachmaninov.
As a composer, Taneyev took inspiration from Germany rather than from the nationalism which his contemporaries, the ‘Russian Five’ adopted. Form, counterpoint and development of melody were paramount, with the atmosphere of Russian folk dance rather than any direct quotations. The third movement of the quintet is an intricately constructed Passacaglia, which Shostakovich must certainly have studied, as he went on to pen many examples of this genre. And it is Shostakovich’s fifth string quartet which opens this concert. Written in 1952 it was premiered in Leningrad by the Beethoven Quartet to whom it is dedicated.