Taneyev: At the Reading of a Psalm / Pletnev, Russian National Orchestra

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"(This) is an overlooked masterpiece of the Russian music literature … and I hope our disc will bring the recognition which it well deserves.” (Mikhail Pletnev) “Psalm 50 made a deep impression on Alexey Khomyakov, whose 1856 poem develops the idea that outward forms of religion are as nothing beside truth and brotherly love ...(his) poem inspired Taneyev ... a summation of Taneyev’s life and work … (bears) comparison with Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, especially use of fugues …a compelling piece which Pletnev does well to clarify so successfully …includes a fine solo warmly sung by Marianna Tarassova.” (Gramophone)


Composed in the midst of the Great War and at the violent setting of the sun on Imperial Russia, At the Reading of a Psalm is a major piece. It was also Taneyev’s last work. The composer was to die shortly after[.]

This recording, which originally came out on Pentatone PTC 5186038, is ferociously eager and has both moment and mordancy. It has about it nothing of the calculated studio re-creation and more of a perilously volatile live event. The text is by Aleksey Khomyakov and the work itself is said to be modelled on [Beethoven's] Missa Solemnis.

The first movement tempestuously embodies a storm. The second is commanding and the choir blazes with defiant conviction. We return to drama in movements 3 and 4. Everything is in fact played with bubbling excitement and it is remarkable that Pletnev has the stamina to keep this up across a work running to much more than an hour.

Even the quiet movements, such as the fifth, maintain a poetic grip supported by a plenitude of engaging detail. Tchaikovsky-like solo singing in movement 6 has the voices emerge with all the earthly passion of Eugene Onegin; listen out also for some the glorious horn tone. The final section (tr. 9) is a Double Chorus complete with imaginative solo violin filigree. There’s a turbulent Brucknerian majesty at work in this finale.

I should no longer be surprised by the virtues of Taneyev’s music...this is thoroughly gripping stuff which evinces remarkable commitment and rare ardour. Pletnev has the measure of this piece and “blazes away with both barrels”.

--MusicWeb International (Rob Barnett)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: June 11, 2021

  • Catalog Number: 1445

  • UPC: 5055354414459

  • Label: Alto

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Late Romantic

  • Composer: Sergei Taneyev

  • Conductor: Mikhail Pletnev

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Russian National Orchestra