About this Recording
8.553660 - GLAZUNOV, A.K.: Orchestral Works, Vol. 15 - Symphonies Nos. 5 and 8 (Moscow Symphony, Anissimov)
English 

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov (1865-1936)

Symphony No.5 in B flat major, Op. 55
Symphony No.8 in E flat major, Op. 83

Glazunov belonged to a generation of Russian composers that was able to benefit from more professional standards of compositional technique, absorbing and helping to create a synthesis of the national, that might sometimes be expressed crudely enough, and the technique of the conservatories, that might sometimes seem facile. His music seems to bridge the gap between the two, continuing at the same time a romantic tradition into a world that had turned to eclectic innovation. As a young man, he worked closely with Rimsky-Korsakov, to whom Balakirev, his mother's teacher, had recommended him, and played an important part in the education of a new generation of Russian composers such as Shostakovich.

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was born in St Petersburg in 1865, the son of a publisher and bookseller. As a child he showed considerable musical ability and in 1879 met Balakirev and hence Rimsky-Korsakov. By the age of sixteen he had finished the first of his nine symphonies, which was performed under the direction of Balakirev, whose influence is perceptible in the work. The relationship with Balakirev was not to continue. The rich timber-merchant Mitrofan Petrovich Belyayev had been present at the first performance of the symphony and travelled to Moscow to hear Rimsky-Korsakov conduct a second performance there. He attended the Moscow rehearsals and his meeting with Rimsky-Korsakov was the beginning of a new informal association of Russian composers, perceived by Balakirev as a threat to his own position and influence, as self-appointed mentor of the Russian nationalist composers. Glazunov became part of Belyayev's circle, attending his Friday evenings with Rimsky-Korsakov, rather than Balakirev's Tuesday evening meetings, and in 1884 Belyayev took him to meet Liszt in Weimar, where the First Symphony was performed.

In 1899 Glazunov joined the staff of the Conservatory in St Petersburg, but by this time his admiration for his teacher seems to have cooled. Rimsky-Korsakov's wife was later to remark on Glazunov's admiration for Tchaikovsky and Brahms, suspecting in this the influence of Taneyev and of the critic Laroche, champion of Tchaikovsky and a strong opponent of the nationalists, a man described by Rimsky-Korsakov as the Russian equivalent of Hanslick in Vienna, a comparison that, from him, was not entirely complimentary.

Glazunov, however, remained a colleague and friend of Rimsky-Korsakov, and demonstrated this after the political disturbance of 1905, when the latter had signed a letter of protest at the suppression of some element of democracy in Russia and had openly sympathized with Conservatory students who had joined liberal protests against official policies. Rimsky-Korsakov was dismissed from the Conservatory, to be reinstated by Glazunov, elected director of an institution that, in the aftermath, had now won a measure of autonomy, Glazunov remained director of the Conservatory until 1930.

It says much for the esteem in which Glazunov was held that he was able to steer the Conservatory through years of great hardship, difficulty and political turmoil, fortified in his task, it seems, by the illicit supply of vodka provided for him by the father of Shostakovich, then a student there. Emaciated through the years of privation after the Revolution, he eventually assumed a more substantial appearance again, compared by the English press to a retired tea-planter or a prosperous bank-manager, with his rimless glasses and gold watch-chain. His appearance was in accordance with his musical tastes. He found fault with Stravinsky's ear and could not abide the music of Richard Strauss, while the student Prokofiev seems to have shocked him with the discords of his Scythian Suite. His own music continued the tradition of Tchaikovsky and to this extent seemed an anachronism in an age when composers were indulging in experiments of all kinds. Glazunov left Russia in 1928 in order to attend the Schubert centenary celebrations in Vienna. Thereafter he remained abroad, at first with a busy round of engagements as a conductor, finally settling near Paris at Boulogne-sur-Seine until his death in 1936.

Glazunov wrote his Symphony in B flat major, Opus 55, in 1895, dedicating the work to Sergey Taneyev, whose monumental Oresteia, based on Aeschylus, was first performed in the same year. The work met with approval from Rimsky-Korsakov, who found in it the beginning of something new, although a few years later his youngest daughter, Nadezhda Nikolayevna, expressed dislike for it, when she played it through, rather badly, we are told, with Stravinsky. The first movement opens with a strong motif in the lower register of the orchestra, answered by the woodwind, the outline of the first subject heard from bassoons and cellos in the Allegro that follows the solemn introductory section. The material forms the substance of the transition that leads to the secondary theme, heard first from flute and clarinet with harp accompaniment, as it shifts in harmony from D minor to the dominant key of F major. There is a technically assured development, before the varied return of the material and the excitement of the final section of the movement. The G minor Scherzo has a reminiscence of Mendelssohn about it and a more direct debt to Tchaikovsky. It includes a trio section and elements of both return in conclusion. The principal theme of the E flat major Andante is first heard from the violins. An interruption by the brass introduces contrasting material, before the return of the thematic substance of the first section of the movement. The symphony, very properly, ends with a rondo, always with rhythmic and melodic suggestions of Russia, both in its principal theme and in its contrasting episodes.

It was in the winter of the disturbed year of 1905 that Glazunov worked on his Symphony No.8 in E flat major, Opus 83, completing the piano score during the following spring. The composer played it through to Rimsky-Korsakov and his friends on several occasions, with the second movement regarded as superior to the others and agreement that the scherzo was without a trio and really a kind of rondo. The orchestrated version was played at a Russian Music Society concert in December 1906 and heard again the following January at Glazunov's jubilee concert. The principal theme of the first movement is heard initially from bassoons and horns and motifs derived from this play a large part in the tripartite sonata-form movement, with its secondary theme entrusted first to the oboe. The central section finds scope for contrapuntal development and the principal theme returns in a varied form in the final recapitulation. The E flat minor slow movement starts menacingly, the main theme continuing with suggestions of the first movement, with a secondary theme introduced by the flute. These themes return in due course, the first in a lower register and the second initiated by the oboe, in a movement of great intensity. If the stormy scherzo has no formal trio, it certainly has contrasting material to its busy opening, re-establishing its nominal key of C major in its conclusion. The wind instruments provide a characteristically Russian hymn-like opening to the last movement, now confirming the home-key of E flat major. An episode in B major with an opening clarinet melody leads to the return of the wind chorale and the principal theme, which is later to return in contrapuntal form, followed by the second theme and a triumphant conclusion in which the principal theme plays a pervasive part. The whole work, the last symphony that Glazunov completed, represents the height of his achievement, in particular in its command of symphonic form and orchestration.

Keith Anderson

Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Established in 1989, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra includes prize-winners and laureates of Russian and international music competitions and graduates of conservatories in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev who have played under such conductors as Svetlanov, Rozhdestvensky, Mravinsky and Ozawa, in Russia and throughout the world. In addition to its extensive concert programmes, the orchestra has been recognized for its outstanding recordings for Marco Polo, including the first-ever survey of Malipiero's symphonies, symphonic music of Guatemala, the complete symphonies of Charles Tournemire and Russian music by Scriabin, Glazunov, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Nikolay Tcherepnin, It has also embarked on a survey of classic film scores from Hollywood's golden age. The orchestra toured in 1991 to Finland and to England, where collaboration with a well known rock band demonstrated readiness for experimentation. A British and Japanese commission has brought a series of twelve television programmes for international distribution and in 1993 there was a highly successful tour of Spain.

Alexander Anissimov
Alexander Anissimov graduated from the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1970 and completed his studies at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1980 he was appointed Chief Guest Conductor of the Bolshoi Byelorussian Opera and Ballet Theatre and has made many appearances at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and the Maryinsky-Kirov Theatre in St Petersburg. Since September 1997 he has been Chief Conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra 'Russian Philharmonia'. In recognition of his talent the Orchestra of Santa Cecilia, Rome, presented him with Leonard Bernstein's baton in 1993 and he was named Conductor of the Year by the Russian magazine Muzikai Elite in 1995. His operatic performances have included Cherevichki and The Demon at the Wexford Festival, Boris Godunov at La Fenice in Venice, Eugene Onegin in Paris and Barcelona and Prince Igor in San Francisco and Marseilles. He has accompanied Monserrat Caballé at the Kremlin and Galina Gorchakova at the Hong Kong Festival. In addition to his appearances with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland in Dublin he has conducted concerts at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and various ballets at the Bastille Opera in Paris, toured Spain with the Monte Carlo Philharmonic and Ireland and the USA with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. He now holds the position of Principal Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, having been their Principal Guest Conductor since 1994.


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