Sergei Taneyev , classical music composer

Sergei Taneyev  image

Sergei Taneyev


Sergei Taneyev was born on November 25, 1856 into a cultured and literary family of Russian nobility. He began piano lessons at the age of five, and after his family moved to Moscow in 1865, studied at the Moscow Conservatory. Initially studying piano with Edward Langer, he later became a pupil of the Conservatory's founder, Nikolai Rubinstein. In composition, he studied under the tutelage of Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  Taneyev graduated from the Conservatory in 1875, becoming the first student in the school's history to win a gold medal for both composition and piano performance. During that same year, he made his public debut as a pianist performing Johannes Brahms's D minor Piano Concerto and appeared as the soloist in the Moscow premiere of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto.

Following Tchaikovsky's resignation from the Moscow Conservatory in 1878, Taneyev was offered a position teaching harmony. In time, he served as the Conservatory's director, and taught piano and composition. In this latter position, he was highly influential and his pupils included Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninoff. The Revolution of 1905 and its effects on the Conservatory, however, ended Taneyev's tenure. After resigning, he returned to the life a concert pianist and dedicated more time to composition.

As a performer, Taneyev was highly praised for his interpretations of the music of J. S. Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. After his Moscow premiere of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, he was later asked to premiere the composer's Second Piano Concerto and Piano Trio in A minor. As a composer, however, Taneyev lacked a particularly strong creative gift, and much of his music was characterized as dry and laborious. On the other hand, he possessed a truly remarkable technique. His specialty was counterpoint, and he engrossed himself in the study of the masters of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, ultimately publishing a monumental two-volume treatise on the subject. This craftsmanship made him influential as a professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory, as well as a trusted friend and advisor to his own former composition teacher. Indeed, Tchaikovsky frequently sought out Taneyev's criticism, both valuing his input as a craftsman, but also fearing the bluntness with which he often delivered it. A distant cousin of the composer Alexander Taneyev, Sergei's compositional style was much more oriented towards the Germanic tradition than his nationalist cousin. He collided, on occasion, with the nationalist group of composers headed by Mily Balakirev known as "The Five," but in time at least grew to respect the music of its members, save for Modest Mussorgsky whose music he only regarded with disdain.

After attending the funeral of Scriabin, Taneyev contracted pneumonia. During his recovery, he fell victim to a heart attack and passed away on June 19, 1915.

Composer Title Date Action
Sergei Taneyev Canzona 02/04/2009 Play Add to playlist
Sergei Taneyev Gigue, from String Quartet No. 6 in B-Flat Major, Op. 19 11/22/2015 Play Add to playlist
Sergei Taneyev String Quartet No. 6 in B-Flat Major, Op. 19 11/22/2015 Play Add to playlist