GLAZUNOV: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 9
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AlexanderKonstantinovich Glazunov (1865-1936)
Symphony No. 3 in Dminor, Op. 33; Symphony No. 9 in D minor
Glazunov belonged to a generation of Russian composers that was able tobenefit from more professional standards of compositional technique, absorbingand helping to create a synthesis of the national, that might sometimes beexpressed crudely enough, and the technique of the conservatories, that mightsometimes 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 turnedto eclectic innovation. As a young man, he worked closely with Rimsky-Korsakov,to whom Balakirev, his mother's teacher, had recommended him, and played animportant part in the education of a new generation of Russian composers suchas Shostakovich.
Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was born in St Petersburg in 1865,the son of a publisher and bookseller. As a child he showed considerablemusical ability and in 1879 met Balakirev and hence Rimsky-Korsakov. By the ageof sixteen he had finished the first of his nine symphonies, which wasperformed under the direction of Balakirev, whose influence is perceptible inthe work. The relationship with Balakirev was not to continue. The richtimber-merchant Mitrofan Petrovich Belyayev had been present at the firstperformance of the symphony and travelled to Moscow to hear Rimsky-?¡Korsakovconduct a second performance there. He attended the Moscow rehearsals and hismeeting with Rimsky- Korsakov was the beginning of a new informal associationof Russian composers, perceived by Balakirev as a threat to his own positionand influence, as self-appointed mentor of the Russian nationalist composers.
Glazunov became part of Belyayev' s circle, attending his Friday evenings withRimsky-Korsakov, rather than Balakirev's Tuesday evening meetings. Belyayevtook Glazunov, in 1884, to meet Liszt in Weimar, where the First Symphony wasperformed.
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 forTchaikovsky and Brahms, suspecting in this the influence of Taneyev and of thecritic Laroche, champion of Tchaikovsky and a strong opponent of thenationalists, a man described by Rimsky-Korsakov as the Russian equivalent ofHanslick in Vienna, a comparison that, from him, was not entirelycomplimentary.
Glazunov, however, remained a colleague and friend of Rimsky-Korsakov,and demonstrated this after the political disturbance of 1905, when the latterhad signed a letter of protest at the suppression of some element of democracyin Russia and had openly sympathized with Conservatory students who had joinedliberal protests against official policies. Rimsky-Korsakov was dismissed fromthe Conservatory, to be reinstated by Glazunov, elected director of aninstitution that, in the aftermath, had now won a measure of autonomy. Glazunovremained director of the Conservatory until 1930.
Glazunov left Russia in 1928 in order to attend the Schubert centenarycelebrations in Vienna. Thereafter he remained abroad, at first with a busyround of engagements as a conductor, finally settling near Paris atBoulogne-sur-Seine until his death in 1936.
It says much for the esteem in which Glazunov was held that he was ableto steer the Conservatory through years of great hardship, difficulty andpolitical turmoil, fortified in his task, it seems, by the illicit supply ofvodka provided for him by the father of Shostakovich, then a student there.
Emaciated through the years of privation after the Revolution, he eventuallyassumed a more substantial appearance again, compared by the English press to aretired tea-planter or a prosperous bank-manager, with his rimless glasses andgold watch-chain. His appearance was in accordance with his musical tastes. Hefound fault with Stravinsky's ear and could not abide the music of RichardStrauss, while the student Prokofiev seems to have shocked him with thediscords of his Scythian Suite. His own music continued the tradition ofTchaikovsky and to this extent seemed an anachronism in an age when composerswere indulging in experiments of all kinds.
Rimsky-Korsakov left abrief description of the first performance of Glazunov's First Symphony, therejoicing of younger Russian composers and the grumbling of Stasov, theliterary guide of the Five, disapproving, no doubt, of such a foreign form, andthen the surprise of the audience when a school-boy came out to acknowledge theapplause. There were those prepared to hint that the symphony, dedicated toRimsky Korsakov, had been written by another musician, hired for the purpose byGlazunov's parents. Rumours of this kind were contradicted by the works that followed.
Belyayev arranged for publication of the symphony in Leipzig, and this markedthe beginning of the Belyayev publishing enterprise that proved so helpful toRussian 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 in1883, the year in which he left school. By 1888 he was expressing doubts aboutthe viability of the symphony, earning Rimsky-Korsakov's rebuke, but two yearslater the work was nearing completion, arousing the interest of Tchaikowsky, towhom it was dedicated. The first performance took place in St Petersburg inDecember 1890, conducted, because of the composer's illness, by Lyadov. Thefirst movement, skillfully orchestrated, offers a lyrical first theme, heardfirst from the violins before being taken up by the trombones before a shift tothe key of D flat. This is interrupted by a passage of marked vigour,eventually leading back to the initial mood. The Scherzo, suggestingstill more the influence of Tchaikovsky, makes use of a glockenspiel in itsscoring. The lively opening moves on, briefly, to a more sinister contrast, andthe oboe, followed by the flute, introduces a trio section, with more than asuggestion of Russia in its course. The F major Scherzo is followed by aC sharp minor Andante, introduced initially by the woodwind. A soloclarinet leads to the principal theme, announced by the first violin, a melodythat has about it something of the poignancy of Tchaikovsky Here the tenoroboe, the cor anglais, adds a colour of its own, particularly in the centralsection of the movement. The original theme returns, eventually to be restoredto its proper key, as the movement comes to an end. The Finale startswith cheerful exuberance, with a minor key secondary theme offering contrast,leading to two fugal sections in a carefully structured movement thatconstantly suggests its Russian origin.
Glazunov started workon his Symphony No. 9 in D minor in 1910 but sketched only the firstmovement in short score, fearing the sinister implications of its numbering.
For too many composers their ninth symphony had been their last. The score wasgiven to Rimsky-Korsakov's son-in-law, Maximilian Shteynberg, in 1928 and wasorchestrated in 1947 by Gavril Yudin. The seed from which the movement grows isheard 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 Allegromoderato that follows is drawn from the same source, while the clarinetintrodu