Sergey Taneyev

Tchaikovsky Research
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Sergey Taneyev (1856-1915)

Russian composer, musicologist, teacher, pianist and conductor (b. 13/25 November 1856 in Vladimir; d. 6/19 June 1915 at Dyudkovo, near Zvenigorod), born Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev (Сергей Иванович Танеев).

Tchaikovsky and Taneyev

The youngest son of Ivan Ilyich Taneyev (1796–1879), a state councillor, physician and amateur musician, and his wife Varvara Pavlovna (b. Protopopova, 1822–1889), Sergey began taking piano lessons at the age of five. In 1866, aged just nine, he enrolled in the Moscow Conservatory, studying piano first under Eduard Langer, and then Nikolay Rubinstein. In 1871 he joined Tchaikovsky's composition class, and his outstanding ability earned the admiration of his tutor, and they remained good friends after Taneyev graduated in 1875 (he graduated with gold medals in piano and composition). During an extended stay in Paris (from November 1876 to May 1877), Taneyev helped Tchaikovsky to try to organize a concert of his works in the French capital. Although this plan did not materialize, Taneyev made the acquaintance of a number of prominent composers and musicians in Paris, including Camille Saint-Saëns and Pauline Viardot, and he also met Ivan Turgenev [1]. The former student went on to succeed Tchaikovsky as professor of harmony at the conservatory (1878–1905), and also later served as its director (1885–1889). Throughout his life he continued to compose, and also produced a two-volume treatise on counterpoint (1909).

Tchaikovsky dedicated his orchestral fantasia Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 (1876) to Sergey Taneyev, and the latter returned the compliment with the dedication of his own String Quartet in B♭ minor (1890). The manuscript of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 23 (1874–75) contains an inscription to Taneyev (who gave one of the earliest performances of the work), although this was struck out in favour of the eventual dedicatee, Hans von Bülow.

In 1882, Taneyev gave the first Russian performance of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 44 in Moscow, and the first ever performances of the solo parts in the Concert Fantasia, Op. 56 (1885), Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 75 (1895), and Andante and Finale (1896). Taneyev also made transcriptions of a number of Tchaikovsky's works, including piano duet versions of the Symphony No. 4, Op. 36 (1877), the Symphony No. 5, Op. 64 (1888), the opera Iolanta, Op. 68 (1891), and the ballet The Nutcracker, Op. 71 (1891–92), as well as orchestral arrangements of some of Tchaikovsky's songs.

After Tchaikovsky's death in 1893, Taneyev was entrusted by Modest Tchaikovsky to complete a number of works left unfinished: the duet scena for an opera on Romeo and Juliet, the Andante and Finale for piano and orchestra, Op. 79, and the piano piece Momento lirico (unaware that the latter work had already been published in a completed form as the Moment lyrique).

Taneyev was also active in founding the Tchaikovsky House-Museum at Klin in 1895, and after his own death from pneumonia in 1915, Taneyev's own manuscripts were bequeathed to the Klin archive.


In 1876, Tchaikovsky dedicated his orchestral fantasia Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32, "à Monsieur Serge Taneïew".

Taneyev's String Quartet No. 1, Op. 4 (1890) was dedicated to Tchaikovsky.

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

115 letters from Tchaikovsky to Sergey Taneyev have survived, dating from 1874 to 1893, all of which have been translated into English on this website:

112 letters from Taneyev to Tchaikovsky have been preserved, dating from 1874 to 1893, of which 111 are held by the Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin (a4, Nos. 4349–4439, 4441–4459 and 6630) [2], and one by the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art in Moscow.


External Links

Notes and References

  1. For more information on Taneyev's stay in Paris in 1876-77, see: Turgenev and Taneyev
  2. This total includes one letter from 1886 written jointly by Taneyev and his mother Varvara. The Klin archive also holds one further letter, dating from 1883, written jointly by Taneyev and Herman Laroche.