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The Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne with Sergei Taneyev’s “John of Damascus” op. 1 at Oehms classics

On 19 June 2020 we commemorated the 105th anniversary of the death of Sergei Taneyev. The composer, who was so important for Russian late romanticism, studied at the Moscow Conservatory, where he was trained as a pianist by Nikolai Rubinstein and in composition by Peter Tchaikovsky.

After extensive concert tours, he began a long phase as a composition and piano teacher at the Moscow Conservatory. Due to political turmoil caused by the 1905 revolution, Taneyev left the famous school in protest to teach privately from that time onwards.

Among his students were Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Glière. Glière later became Serge Prokofiev’s teacher.

Aside from his Symphony No. 4 and the Canzone for clarinet and strings, Sergei Taneyev’s most famous work is the cantata “John of Damascus” for mixed choir and orchestra op. 1.

The cantata composed between 1883 and 1884, which has been impressively recorded on the label Oehms classics featuring the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne and the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno under Dmitrij Kitajenko’s baton, refers to a long poem by Aleksey K. Tolstoy (1817-1875). It is about the flight from the world of John of Damascus (circa 650 - 754), who spent half of his life as a monk in the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem. Taneyev’s cantata contains only sixteen lines of the long text. These passages concentrate on man’s liberation from a world steeped in darkness and fear and the salvation of the Last Judgement.

Sergei Taneyev: John of Damascus. Cantata for mixed choir and orchestra op.1
Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno
Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne
Managing Director: Dmitri Kitayenko
Oehms classics OC470

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