About this Recording
8.553857 - GLAZUNOV, A.K.: Orchestral Works, Vol. 10 - Suite Caracteristique / Le Chant du Destin / Preludes (Moscow Symphony, Golovschin)

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) Characteristic Suite

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)

Characteristic Suite / Song of Destiny / Preludes


Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was born in St Petersburg, the son of a comfortably well-off publisher and bookseller. Balakirev, self-appointed leader of the nationalist Five, the Mighty Handful, recommended study with Rimsky-Korsakov and he had encouragement from Liszt, to whose memory he dedicated his Second Symphony, Celebrated throughout Europe as a composer and conductor, Glazunov directed his Stenko Razin and Second Symphony at the 1889 Paris Universal Exhibition and was appointed director of the St Petersburg Conservatory in December 1905. Here his students included Shostakovich. On 15th June 1928, embittered by the consequences, hardship and deprivations of post-Leninist New Order Communism, he left Russia, ostensibly to attend the Schubert centenary commemorations in Vienna but effectively to escape Relinquishing his directorship of the Conservatory in 1930, he settled in Paris two years later, "respected, but not ...much loved ...not really knowing for whom and for what he was writing", as Shostakovich observed. Published in Leipzig by the millionaire benefactor Belyayev, his copious output, dating mainly from between the death of Mussorgsky in 1881 and that of Scriabin in 1915, included eight completed symphonies (1881/82-1906), five concertos, three ballets, a number of choral works, seven string quartets, and a pair of piano sonatas.


Bridging the chasm between Tsarists and Bolsheviks, Glazunov was an artist of legendary pedagogy and picturesque personality, a man of physically gargantuan girth, a "Homeric" drinker (he must have found Prohibition America hard) Less pioneer, more reconciler, journeying a battle-scarred road from homeland to exile, he knew life in all its facets, from society riches to tenement rags.


The "dramatic overture" Le Chant du Destin, Opus 84, was written in 1907, the year following the Eighth Symphony, Predominantly in 0 minor, notwithstanding paragraphs of major key contrast, it is a sonata-allegro concert-piece of varying material, tempi and metre, unified by a recurrent, motto figure in dotted/long.triplet/long rhythm The successive minor/major third cells of this leitmotif prove, in the long-term duration of the first subject group, to be a provocative reversal of the major/minor ones generating Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, in the course of the exposition even offering the same pitch-pairings backwards (F/D, G/E flat) To the Russian Romantics, as we know from Tchaikovsky, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was the first great fate symbol of the age. Barring incidental diversions, the overall tonality scheme is very Slav.


The youthful yet assured Suite Caractiristique, Opus 9, written between 1884 and 1887, dates from the time of the Second Symphony and the revision of the First (Slavyanskaya). Sources suggest that portions of the work began life as a set of piano variations written under Rimsky-Korsakov's guidance in 1880, which Glazunov then turned into a symphonic suite, before offering it in the form in which we now know it. It is this earlier orchestral suite, first played at a rehearsal in SI Petersburg on 8th Apri11884, to which Rimsky refers in his autobiography. Befitting the greatest late nineteenth-century master of formal Russian ballet- music after Tchaikovsky, as witnessed by the ballets Raymonda and The Seasons and the Bollet Suite, Opus 52, dance is the all-pervasive inspiration of the music, brightly coloured by allusive folk images. The opening and closing tableoux are each bipartite -the first (0 major) comprising an andante Introduction followed by a Danse rusique, allegro ma non troppo; the last a passionately climactic Elegie (adagio, D minor) and grand Cortege (alla marcia maestoso, D major). Prophetic of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony, the Cortege strikingly takes the Introduction theme, transforming it into the major. Evocatively scored, with trumpets and massive brass brilliantly lit, it provides a conclusion distinctive, too, in its parody of the patterns and shape of the Danse rustique, and in referring to ideas and keys met in the second and third movements -the E flat major Intermezzo scherzando and the rapid Cameval, in D minor/major and E flat. Seekers after links of another sort may enjoy comparing the unlikely 518 Trio section of the second movement, notable for its irregular 2+3 and 3+2 accents, with the 518 Scherzo from Borodin's unfinished Third Symphony, cobbled together by Glazunov early in 1887 from one of Borodin's quartet movements for Belyayev, Les Vendredis No.3. The pagan elements of tbe suite look most evidently to Balakirev, Borodin (the finale of the Second Symphony and perhaps Prince Igor music Glazunov knew intimately) and Rimsky-Korsakov. Not all is derivative, however. The physically exultant B minor Danse orientale, witb its repetitive percussion rhythms and reedily nasal oboe timbre, has enough twists and turns and modal side-steps to suggest more than once the future exotic trans-Caucasian music of Ippolitov-Ivanov and Khachaturian Rimsky, indeed, who preferred his folk cosmetic to be beautiful, found it so "very odd and savage" as actually to have it suppressed from the 1884 try-out The artfully counterpointed Pastorale for woodwind, horns and strings, about as close as one will get to a Russian equivalent of The Gift to be Simple, plumbs occidental deptbs of a very different kind.


Published in 1911, the Two Preludes, Opus 85, for large orchestra, were composed in 1906 and 1908 in memory respectively of Stasov and Rimsky-Korsakov Stasov, champion of the Balakirev circle, responsible in 1867 for naming the Five the Mighty Handful, died in St Petersburg on 23rd October 1906. More than two decades earlier, in a seminal essay on recent Russian music, published in 1883, he had welcomed the youthful Glazunov as "a true master". "The principal characteristics of his music thus far" he wrote, "are an incredibly vast sweep, power, inspiration, wondrous beauty, rich fantasy, sometimes humour, sadness, passion, and always amazing clarity and freedom of form." Glazunov's tribute is an A minor Andante. Calling for forces including three kettledrums, unusually tuned to the tritone on B and high and low Fs, tam-tam, harp and piano, its funereal dotted rhythms unfold a gravely poetic picture, reinforced by a closing coda making poignant use of modally flattened sevenths. The outer sections feature a sixteen-note long/short pattern of harmonized falling fifths, perfect and diminished, which mayor may not signify a reference to the sixteen-letter westemised form of Stasov's name, "Wladimir Stassoff', printed on the title-page.


Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov died in Lyubensk on 21st June 1908 A staunch supporter, as his posthumously published memoirs testify, he had always admired his precocious student's gifts and artistry, believing his symphonies and other works to be among "the finest adornments of contemporary musical literature". Glazunov's Andante lugubre piece, In memoriam, longer than the one for Stasov but otherwise similarly tripartite in structure, is akin to a quasi-Wagnerian portrait. Underlined by chromatic growls and "Song of India" delirium, sensuous thirds and sixths and pulsing triplets, "Easter" chorales and oceanic arias, its diatonically wistful E major Amen goes back hauntingly to the anchorage of Sheherazade and the 1880s.


Ates Orga


Moscow Symphony Orchestra

The Moscow Symphony Orchestra was established in 1989 and until 1998 was under the direction of the distinguished French musician Antonio de Almeida. The members of the orchestra include prize-winners and laureates of international and Russian music competitions, graduates of the conservatories of Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev, who have played under conductors such as Svetlanov, Rozhdestvensky, Mravinsky and Ozawa, in Russia and throughout the world. The orchestra toured in 1991 to Finland and to England, where collaboration with a well- known rock band demonstrated readiness for experiment. 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. The Moscow Symphony Orchestra has a wide repertoire, with particular expertise in the performance of contemporary works.

Igor Golovschin

The Russian conductor Igor Golovschin was born in Moscow in 1956 and entered the piano class of the Special Music School at the age of six. In 1975 he joined the class of Kyril Kondrashin at the Moscow Conservatory and in 1981 joined the Irkntsk Symphony Orchestra, winning the Herbert von Karajan Conductors' Competition in the following year, followed, in 1984, by victory in the Moscow National Conductors' Competition. Five years later he was invited to join the former USSR State Symphony Orchestra, where he was assistant to Yevgeny Svetlanov until the latter's death in 1998.



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