GLAZUNOV: Stenka Razin / Une fete slave / Cortege solennel

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Alexander Glazunov (1865 - 1936)


Stenka Razin, Op. 13

Une fete slave, Op. 26

Cortege solennel, Op. 50

Fantaisie, Op. 53

Mazurka, Op. 18

March on a Russian Theme, Op. 76


Noticed by Balakirev (founding father ofthe Mighty Handful), taught by Rimsky-Korsakov, and encouraged by Liszt, Glazunovwas Director of the St Petersburg Conservatoire from 1905 to 1930. In 1932,disenchanted with communism, he settled in Paris, joining other Russian emigres there, among them the younger Medtner.

His copious output - belonging principally to that period between the deaths ofMussorgsky (1881) and Scriabin (1915) - included eight completed symphonies,four concertos for violin and piano, three ballets, a number of choral works,seven string quartets, and two piano sonatas. He published a centenary volumeon Schubert in 1928.


A living legend, the oracle ofEstablishment St Petersburg, Glazunov's life was charmed, rewarded, honoured(from Ox bridge doctorates in 1907 to People's Artist of the Republic in 1922),but ultimately uneventful, and finally disillusioned. "Fewcomposers," wrote Rosa Newmarch many years ago, "made their debutunder more favourable auspices or won appreciation so rapidly [the schoolboy FirstSymphony and first two quartets] ...His career seemed the realisation of afairy-tale set to music until the political troubles of his country threw hislife and his art into the shadows". In October 1883 Vladimir Stasov,critic and champion of the Balakirev circle, predicted a golden future for him(he was just eighteen): "The principal characteristics of his music thusfar are an incredibly vast sweep; power, inspiration, wondrous beauty, richfantasy, sometimes humour, sadness, passion, and always amazing clarity andfreedom of form". Life, history, the years took their toll. Whenthe young Nicolas Slonimsky auditioned for him in 1908, he remembered animposing man of "corporeal immensity (he weighed over 300 pounds)",matching "the contrapuntal solidity of his music ...He liked good food andhe drank liquor to excess [he was also a heavy smoker]. When I saw him again in1918, he looked like a skeleton covered with loosely hanging clothes; he musthave lost half of his weight". He ended his post-Revolution New Order dayspitifully deprived -sharing two rooms with his aged mother (he was still her"baby boy"), fearing his stock of music manuscript paper would runout, and dependent on Shostakovich's father risking his life to keep himillegally supplied with raw government alcohol.


Widely travelled, the cosmopolitan Glazunov was a radicalsecond generation Russian nationalist-turned-conservative European Brahmsian,"a stabilising influence in a time of transition and turmoil" (BorisSchwarz, 1980). He was a lyricist in the Tchaikovsky manner. He reveredMussorgsky and Borodin (editing the former, and completing the latter's PrinceIgor and Third Symphony). He caught the essence of Rimsky'sorchestration with a brilliance to match the colour and imagination of theoriginal. And he thought so totally "about music [that] when he spokeabout it, you remembered for life" (Shostakovich). Historically, though - beinghow he was, living in the era and place he did - was it his misfortune to havebeen born arguably too late for the nineteenth century and too early for thetwentieth? His music, more reviled than revived since his death, has certainlyhad difficulty withstanding the legacy of his predecessors and successors.


Published in memory of Borodin, the symphonicfantasy-poem Stenka Razin, Op. 13 (1885), was one of Glazunov's earliestnationalist successes. First performed at Belayev's expense at a concert in StPetersburg directed by GO Dutsch (23rd November 1885), he himself laterconducted it during the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle - as the final itemof Rimsky-Korsakov's first "Concert Russe" at the Trocadero (22ndJune). Around the same time also, according to Rimsky's Autobiography, Messagerand Raoul Pugno played it in a piano duet arrangement (Glazunov's own), a featrepeated some years after (in 1905) by Ravel and Ricardo Vines. Stefan Razinwas a chief (ataman) of the Don Cossacks, who in 1670 rebelled against theruling-landowner / serving-peasant reforms of the Romanov Tsar Alexis. Executedin Moscow, his daring exploits and raiding parties, and his struggle for therights of common people, were long the stuff of epic Russian minstrel song. Onetraditional ballad tells of his capture of a Persian princess, whom he placeson one of his ships, surrounded by servants and plunder. His men say that hislove for her has dulled the fight in him. He denies the accusation. OfferingMother Volga "neither gold nor silver, but the most precious of all mypossessions", he sacrifices "his princess fair" by throwing herinto the river, leaps ashore, and, warrior-captain to the finish, leads hisfollowers into renewed battle. Broadly mirroring this story, Glazunov'sromantically opulent score is largely founded on the Song of the VolgaBoatmen (printed by Balakirev in 1866). The unforgettable gravitas of thistune provides the basis for the B minor Andante introduction and Allegro

outer sections; with a contrasting clarinet melody in the major a semitonelower (said to be of Persian origin), symbolic of the gentler princess, Allegromoderato. As inspired as Balakirev's Tamara, Borodin's In theSteppes of Central Asia or Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina Prelude, theintroduction survives among the genuinly great romantic examples of Russianlandscape painting and mood evocation. In 1913-15, Chaliapin (famed for hissinging of the Volga Boatmen) wanted Gogol and Glazunov to collaborateon an opera about Stenka Razin. Nothing came of the idea -but it was possiblythe closest Glazunov ever came to the genre.


The rhythmically vibrant symphonic sketch Une feteslave (Slav Holiday), Op. 26a (1888), was an adaptation of the orchestrallysuggestive Ukrainian dance-finale from the popular G major String Quartet,Op. 26. Written in the wake of Tchaikovsky's suicide the previous November,the (first) Cortege solennel in D major, Op. 50, and the Fantaisie,Op. 53, both date from 1894. Glazunov subtitled the latter From darknessto light, musically representing such transfiguration by beginning in pathetiqueB minor and closing in "white" C major - a familiar enough oldNeapolitan relationship (think of Haydn and Beethoven) but also a very Russianone in its semitonal sidestepping.

According to his pupil Shostakovich, Glazunov"insisted that composing ballets [and by extension dance music] wasbeneficial because it developed your technique... he was right". The Mazurkain G, Op. 18 (1888), was the first of several "concert" dancesfor orchestra independent of a balletic / cyclic context. Together with theearlier Wedding Procession (March), Op. 21 and TriumphalMarch, Op. 40, the March on a Russian Theme, Op. 76 (1901) sharesthe same militaristically heroic key of E flat perorated by Mussorg
Item number 8553538
Barcode 730099453820
Release date 01/01/2000
Category Romantic
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Glazunov, Alexander Konstantinovich
Glazunov, Alexander Konstantinovich
Conductors Krimets, Konstantine
Krimets, Konstantine
Orchestras Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Producers Inc. Betta International
Inc. Betta International
Disc: 1
March on a Russian Theme, Op. 76
1 Stenka Razin, Op. 13
2 Une fete slave, Op. 26
3 Cortege solennel, Op. 50
4 Fantaisie, Op. 53
5 Mazurka, G major, Op. 18
6 March on a Russian Theme, Op. 76
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