GLAZUNOV: Chopiniana / Overtures on Greek Themes

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Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)

Overtures on Three Greek Themes Serenades Nos 1 & 2

Triumphal March Chopiniana

It is becoming increasingly unnecessary to defend thereputation of Glazunov. He belonged to a generation of Russian composers thatwas able to benefit from more professional standards of compositionaltechnique, absorbing and helping to create a synthesis of the national (whichmight sometimes be crudely expressed), and the technique of the conservatories(which might sometimes seem facile). Glazunov worked closely withRimsky-Korsakov, to whom Balakirev, his mother's teacher, had recommended him,and played an important part in the education of a new generation of Russiancomposers such as Shostakovich.

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was born in St Petersburgin 1865, the son of a publisher and bookseller. As a child he showedconsiderable musical ability and in 1879 met Balakirev and henceRimsky-Korsakov. By the age of sixteen he had finished the first of his ninesymphonies, and this was performed under the direction of Balakirev, whoseinfluence is perceptible in the work. The relationship with Balakirev was notto continue. The rich timber-merchant Mitrofan Petrovich Belyayev had beenpresent at the first performance of the symphony and travelled to Moscow tohear Rimsky-Korsakov conduct a second performance there. He attended the Moscowrehearsals and his meeting with Rimsky-Korsakov was the beginning of a newinformal association of Russian composers, perceived by Balakirev as a threatto his own position and influence, as self-appointed mentor of the Russiannationalist composers. Glazunov became part of Belyayev's circle, attending hisFriday evenings with Rimsky-Korsakov, rather than Balakirev's Tuesday eveningmeetings. Belyayev took Glazunov, in 1884, to meet Liszt in Weimar, where theFirst Symphony was performed.

In 1899 Glazunov joined the staff of the Conservatory in StPetersburg, but by this time his admiration for his teacher seems to havecooled. 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 ofRimsky-Korsakov, and demonstrated this after the political disturbance of 1905,when the latter had signed a letter of protest at the suppression of someelement of democracy in Russia and had openly sympathized with Conservatorystudents who had joined liberal protests against official policies.Rimsky-Korsakov was dismissed from the Conservatory, to be reinstated byGlazunov, elected director of an institution that, in the aftermath, had nowwon a measure of autonomy. Glazunov remained director of the Conservatory until1930. In 1928 he left Russia in order to attend the Schubert celebrations inVienna. Thereafter he remained abroad, with a busy round of engagements as aconductor, finally settling near Paris until his death in 1936.

It says much for the esteem in which Glazunov was held thathe was able to steer the Conservatory through years of great hardship,difficulty and political turmoil, fortified in his task, it seems, by theillicit supply of vodka provided for him by the father of Shostakovich, then astudent there. Emaciated through the years of privation after the Revolution,he eventually assumed a more substantial appearance again, compared by theEnglish press to a retired tea-planter or a prosperous bank-manager, with hisrimless glasses and gold watch-chain. His appearance was in accordance with hismusical tastes. He found fault with Stravinsky's ear and could not abide themusic of Richard Strauss, while the student Prokofiev seems to have shocked himwith the discords of his Scythian Suite. His own music continued the traditionof Tchaikovsky and to this extent seemed an anachronism in an age whencomposers were indulging in experiments of all kinds.

From the opening bars of Glazunov's Triumphal March, writtenin 1892 and including an optional chorus part, American listeners will have afeeling of dej?á entendu. The melody on which the greater part of the march isbased is the Philadelphia camp-meeting song 'Say, bummers, will you meet us?',better known as John Brown's Body. Glazunov makes imaginative use of themelody, deriving from it a triumphant paean of victory. The march was writtenfor the Chicago Exhibition and published in 1895 with Russian words byBelyayev, bearing as well the full English title Triumphal March on theOccasion of the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago 1893.

The Serenade No.1 in A major, Op. 7, written in 1883 andpublished three years later, shows Glazunov's early facility in handling simplemelodic materials. A solo clarinet enters, over a plucked string accompaniment,to be joined by other wind instruments. Mock-oriental motifs appear and theprincipal melody returns in the full orchestra before the work ends. The secondof the pair, the Serenade in F major, Op. 11, was written in 1884 and scoredfor a smaller orchestra. It opens with a flute melody hinting at G minor,accompanied by the sustained notes of two clarinets, before the theme appearsin the violins, in

F major, later to return with a flowing accompaniment. Thereare contrasts of thematic material, but it is the delicate F major theme thatreturns in conclusion.

The G minor Overture No. 1 on Three Greek Themes, Op. 3,dates from the years 1881-1884, and was first performed under the direction ofAnton Rubinstein. Here Glazunov drew on melodies published by LouisBourgault-Ducoudray in his Melodies populaires de Gr?¿ce et d'Orient. The Frenchmusicologist had collected this material during a journey through Greece in1874 and it was through him that Rimsky-Korsakov's music was made known tomusic students in Paris. After a meeting in Paris Rimsky-Korsakov described himas a serious musician and a 'bright' man. The vein explored is that Russianpreoccupation with the relative exoticism of neighbouring countries, displayed,for example in Borodin's Prince Igor, in Balakirev's Islamey or inRimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade. The overture opens with a characteristic themethat forms the substance of the slow introduction. A lively dance-song isentrusted to the clarinet, leading to a second, gentler melody for the oboe.The development of these is followed by the return of the initial Adagio and arapid and ultimately triumphant summary of what has gone before. The work wasdedicated to Bourgault-Doucoudray. The D major Overture No. 2 on Three GreekThemes was written in the same period and first introduced to the public underthe direction of Balakirev, to whom it is dedicated. Again Glazunovdemonstrates his precocity in his deft handling of the orchestra and hisfacility with the borrowed melodic material, now in full Russian guise.

In 1892 Glazunov put together an orchestral suite witharrangements of piano music by Chopin, Chopiniana, Op. 46. This was introducedto the public in December 1893, when it was conducted by Rimsky-Korsakov, whoreceived a copy of the score the following year as a present from the composer,when it was published by Belyayev. It formed the basis of a later balletChopiniana, better known outside Russia as Les Sylphides. The ballet was firststaged at the Mar?»insky Theatre in St Petersburg in 1907 with choreography byFokin and with Pavlova as prima ballerina, Fokin's wife Vera Petrovna Fokina,and Anatol Obukhov. The earlier suite opens with an arrangement of Ch
Item number 8555048
Barcode 747313504824
Release date 07/01/2003
Category Romantic
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Glazunov, Alexander Konstantinovich
Glazunov, Alexander Konstantinovich
Conductors Ziva, Vladimir
Ziva, Vladimir
Orchestras Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Disc: 1
Chopiniana, Op. 46
1 Triumphal March, Op. 40
2 Serenade No. 1, Op. 7
3 Overture No. 1 on Three Greek Themes, Op. 3
4 Serenade No. 2, Op. 11
5 Overture No. 2 on Three Greek Themes, Op. 6
6 Polonaise
7 Nocturne
8 Mazurka
9 Tarantelle
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