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Film Music: The Neglected Art, June 2011

In the past twenty years we’ve seen the Glazunov catalog increase significantly. The prolific composer of the late 19th and early 20th century who originally studied under Balakirev, head of the ‘Mighty Five’, and later became a part of the Belyayev circle with Rimsky-Korsakov has always taken a back seat to other Russian composers of his era. Hollywood had and still does have an ‘A’ list of composers along with a ‘B’ one. Glazunov would be on the ‘B’ list. He offers some very good solid Russian Nationalistic sounding compositions but he has never had that unforgettable melody or work that stands above others like Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninoff. Many critics consider his work journeymen like and bland. There is nothing unique. There isn’t a Glazunov sound that is instantly recognizable. I disagree but I’m in the minority on this one.

The “Five Novelettes” were written sometime between the years of 1881–1886. Perhaps the ‘Suite’ as it was originally titled took to pen and paper at an early date and was worked on later. The five movements written for a quintet consisting of two violins, viola, and two cellos offers a mainly bright up beat thirty or so minute quintet. The first movement is a Spanish dance complete with string plucking from the cello in an allegretto tempo. The second movement is marked oriental and it is another upbeat lively dance with the cello string plucking from the cello to start it off. The third movement is a very Russian influenced being quite solemn in nature. It is very peaceful and tranquil. The fourth selection is in complete contrast to the third as it is a delicate waltz. The final movement Hungarian in nature is a return to the style of the opening movement complete with the string plucking and is the longest of the five at nine minutes. It is exactly what you would think of if a gypsy were dancing. In conclusion this is a work from a young Glazunov that should be explored. Recommended.



Guy Whit
Amazon.co.uk, May 2009

Memorable in every way…Glazunov proves, if proof were needed, that he is a minor master. Maybe not original (all rather of the previous generation perhaps - Tchaikovsky, even Dvořák is apparent) but liltingly graceful and memorable. Yes, memorable. The performances are superb: fresh, alert and deeply musical. Recorded sound is similarly impressive. Another Naxos triumph in fact.




Penguin Guide, January 2009

Glazunov’s warmly attractive lyricism as well as his technical mastery come out winningly in both these works, not least the Novelettes charming genre pieces, each echoing a different national dance, Spanish, Hungarian, Oriental, and so on. The String Quintet of 1891, like Schubert’s great C major Quintet, adds a second cello to the string quartet. It is beautifully fashioned and mellifluous, with the first movement introduced by the viola unaccompanied, a sonata movement full of attractive themes. The second-movement Scherzo with its pizzicato writing leads on to the Andante sostenuto, the longest and weightiest of the four. The work is brilliantly rounded off with a Russian dance. The Fine Arts Quartet plus Nathanial Rosen on the second cello give brilliant performances, warmly understanding as well as polished, and very well recorded in New York.



Michael Cookson
MusicWeb International, December 2007

MusicWeb International critic’s choice: Recording Of The Year 2007 “I strongly believe that Glazunov’s substantial output of music is not as well known as it deserves to be. This admirable Naxos release of the Five Novelettes and the String Quintet will help to redress the balance and not just appeal to chamber music lovers. Recorded in New York the sonics are to demonstration standard. For my money the delightful and substantial Five Novelettes is a hidden gem worthy of discovery.” Full review



InsideCatholic.com, November 2007

I cannot resist Glazunov's sweetly melodious String Quintet and the Five Novelettes on a new Naxos CD (8.570256), gorgeously performed by the Fine Art Quartet, with Nathaniel Rosen playing the second cello. Full review




Christopher Latham
Limelight Magazine, November 2007

I was delighted to review this particular CD because I have been waiting almost 20 years for a recording of the Five Novelettes by Alexander Glazunov, having bought the sheet music in a second-hand music store as a young student. I am also glad to see that Russian composers such as Glazunov are finally being recognized and played in the West…Glazunov was a great admirer of Brahms, and wrote a large body of late Romantic works which included nine symphonies, seven string quartets and a famous violin concerto. His music is very reminiscent of both Brahms and Tchaikovsky but sunnier and lighter than both of them. I found the Novelettes to be totally charming, in fact delightful. The string quintet is a good piece without being great, but is absolutely well-made and pleasing, and the Fine Arts and Rosen play it superbly. The playing is “old school” in the best possible way, with beautiful portamenti, thick dark vibratos and luscious sound. The sonic equivalent of eating chocolate ice-cream in the bath—a total pleasure.



Michael Cookson
MusicWeb International, November 2007

The Fine Arts Quartet is a highly accomplished ensemble. On the evidence of these superb performances and other recent releases such as the SchumannString Quartets 1-3 they prove themselves to be in the same elevated league as ensembles such as the Emerson, Škampa, Talich, Takács…There are only a small number of alternative versions of Glazunov’s String Quintet and Five Novelettes and none that I consider an improvement over this superb Naxos release. Full review



The Strad, July 2007

Each movement underlines just how adept the Fine Arts players are at contrasting moods, both between and within sections...It is all profoundly rewarding.



American Record Guide, July 2007

The first time I heard Glazounov's String Quintet..., it served as kind of a "'gateway drug" to my ten-year-long obsession with his chamber music...This very fine recording has kick-started my habit once again...I like this performance of the Novelettes as much as the one by the Hollywood Quartet.




Andrew Fraser
Music Australia Guide, July 2007

Five Novelettes opening this CD were written at the age of 16, and what a joy they are. Using Spanish, Hungarian and ‘Oriental’ melodies, the Novelettes are free spirited and highly enjoyable. The String Quintet was written ten years later and is equally competent, but less energetic. The Fine Arts Quartet and cellist Nathaniel Rosen obviously enjoy this music, as weill anyone who takes the time to listen.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, June 2007

"Phrasing is warm and affectionate; rhythms are moulded and not detonated; homogeneity of string tone ensures a capacious sound...the performances are sympathetic and accomplished and the recording allows plenty of detail to register without becoming clinical. Genial Glazunovians will enjoy the wares on offer." Full Review



Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, April 2007

Loving performances and spectacular sound…should qualify this release for some kind of 2007 music award. Don’t pass it up! Full review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2007

Seldom heard or recorded, the disc makes a welcome addition to the catalogue.



Allmusic.com, March 2007

"Powerfully energetic and tenderly poetic...Anyone who knows and loves Glazunov and doesn't know these works should hear this disc." Full Review






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