About this Recording
8.554253 - GLAZUNOV, A.K.: Orchestral Works, Vol. 12 - Symphonies Nos. 3 and 9 (Moscow Symphony, Anissimov)

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov (1865-1936)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor, Op. 33; Symphony No. 9 in D minor

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. Belyayev took Glazunov, in 1884, 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.

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.

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.

Rimsky-Korsakov left a brief description of the first performance of Glazunov's First Symphony, the rejoicing of younger Russian composers and the grumbling of Stasov, the literary guide of the Five, disapproving, no doubt, of such a foreign form, and then the surprise of the audience when a school-boy came out to acknowledge the applause. There were those prepared to hint that the symphony, dedicated to Rimsky Korsakov, had been written by another musician, hired for the purpose by Glazunov's parents. Rumours of this kind were contradicted by the works that followed. Belyayev arranged for publication of the symphony in Leipzig, and this marked the beginning of the Belyayev publishing enterprise that proved so helpful to Russian composers thus able to benefit from international copyright agreements. The work marked the beginning of what promised to be a remarkable career.

The Symphony No. 3 in D major, Opus 33 occupied Glazunov intermittently for a number of years. He started assembling material for this work and for the Second Symphony in 1883, the year in which he left school. By 1888 he was expressing doubts about the viability of the symphony, earning Rimsky-Korsakov's rebuke, but two years later the work was nearing completion, arousing the interest of Tchaikowsky, to whom it was dedicated. The first performance took place in St Petersburg in December 1890, conducted, because of the composer's illness, by Lyadov. The first movement, skillfully orchestrated, offers a lyrical first theme, heard first from the violins before being taken up by the trombones before a shift to the key of D flat. This is interrupted by a passage of marked vigour, eventually leading back to the initial mood. The Scherzo, suggesting still more the influence of Tchaikovsky, makes use of a glockenspiel in its scoring. The lively opening moves on, briefly, to a more sinister contrast, and the oboe, followed by the flute, introduces a trio section, with more than a suggestion of Russia in its course. The F major Scherzo is followed by a C sharp minor Andante, introduced initially by the woodwind. A solo clarinet leads to the principal theme, announced by the first violin, a melody that has about it something of the poignancy of Tchaikovsky Here the tenor oboe, the cor anglais, adds a colour of its own, particularly in the central section of the movement. The original theme returns, eventually to be restored to its proper key, as the movement comes to an end. The Finale starts with cheerful exuberance, with a minor key secondary theme offering contrast, leading to two fugal sections in a carefully structured movement that constantly suggests its Russian origin.

Glazunov started work on his Symphony No. 9 in D minor in 1910 but sketched only the first movement in short score, fearing the sinister implications of its numbering. For too many composers their ninth symphony had been their last. The score was given to Rimsky-Korsakov's son-in-law, Maximilian Shteynberg, in 1928 and was orchestrated in 1947 by Gavril Yudin. The seed from which the movement grows is heard in the first four notes of the viola in the slow introduction, marked Adagio, mounting to a dynamic climax as instrument after instrument enters. The Allegro moderato that follows is drawn from the same source, while the clarinet introduces an Elgarian secondary theme, to be accompanied by a solo French horn, similarly orchestrated when it is heard again in recapitulation. The movement ends with the return of the slow introduction, gradually fading away to a whisper.

Keith Anderson

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