Biography for Alexander Taneyev

Alexander Sergeievich Taneyev (Russian: Алексáндр Сергéевич Танéев, also transliterated as Taneiev, Tanaiev, Taneieff, and Taneyeff in English; January 17, 1850 – February 7, 1918) was a Russian composer of the late Romantic era, specifically of the nationalist school. Among his best works were three string quartets, believed to be composed by him between 1898-1900.

The name of Alexander Taneyev is not well known outside of Russia. Many of his works are associated with his distant cousin Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915), sometimes known as the “Russian Brahms” due to similarities in the complexity and intricateness of their compositions.

Taneyev was also the father of Anna Vyrubova, who was a lady in waiting and best friend of Tsarina Alexandra. Vyrubova was best known for her relationship with the Romanov family and her attachment to the starets Grigori Rasputin.

Alexander Taneyev inherited an enthusiasm for music from his parents. He was dissuaded from pursuing a career as a professional musician due to his position in the Russian upper class. After studying at university, he entered the Russian civil service, succeeding his father as Director of the Imperial Chancellery. After 1900 he was the head of the folksong collection project of the Russian Geographical Society. Several of the songs collected during this period were later arranged and published by Anatoly Lyadov.

Taneyev pursued musical studies in Germany and later in Petersburg, where he became a student of Rimsky Korsakov. Taneyev's situation at this time bore similarities with that of fellow composer Alexander Borodin. Both were composers whose main occupation was not that of musician (Borodin was a chemistry professor; Taneyev held a bureaucratic post). It was rumored that Taneyev kept a score that he was working on hidden beneath official documents so that he might pen a few notes between appointments.

Taneyev's output as a composer was large. He wrote two operas, three symphonies, several pieces for orchestra, numerous choral works, and a considerable amount of chamber music including three string quartets written between 1898 and 1900. The influence of the other Russian nationalist composers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, and Lyadov, on his work is often noted. Read more on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

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