GLAZUNOV: The King of the Jews

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Alexander Glazunov (1865 -1936)

The King of the Jews, Op. 95

(Incidental Music)


1. Introduction and Chorus

2. Song of the Disciples of Jesus

3. Entr'acte to Act II

4. Tmmpets of the Levites

5. Act II: Conclusion

6. Entr'acte to Act III, Scene 1

7. Entr'acte to Act III, Scene 2

8. Syrian Dance

9. Entr'acte to Act IV

10. Shepherd's Musette

11. Psalm of the Believers


Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov has not faredwell at the hands of later critics. He enjoyed a remarkably successful careerin music, becoming Director of the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1905 in theaftermath of the political disturbances of that year, and retaining theposition, latterly in absentia, for the next twenty-five years. His earliercompositions were well received, but the very facility that had attracted theattention and friendship of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov was to be held againsthim. A Russian critic could praise him for the reconciliation he had apparentlyeffected between the Russian music of his day and the music of Western Europe,but for a considerable time the Soviet authorities regarded his music asbourgeois, while one of the most eminent of writers in the West on Russianmusic, Gerald Abraham, considered that it had fallen to Glazunov to lead what hedescribed as the comfortable decline of Russian music into ignominiousmediocrity. Recent critics have occasionally taken a more balanced view of Glazunov'sachievement. Due respect is paid to his success in bringing about a synthesisof Russian and Western European music, the tradition of the Five and that ofRubinstein, founder of the St Petersburg Conservatory and a system ofprofessional training for musicians. Boris Schwarz has summarised thecomposer's career neatly, allowing him to have been a composer of imposingstature and a stabilising influence in a time of transition and turmoil, whileSimon Mundy, in a recent monograph, has done much to restore interest in acomposer who has been generally undervalued.


Born in St Petersburg in 1865, the son of a publisherand bookseller, as a child Glazunov showed considerable ability in music and in1879 met Balakirev, who encouraged the boy to broaden his general musicaleducation, while taking lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov. By the age of sixteen hehad completed the first of his nine symphonies, a work that was performed in1882 under the direction of Balakirev, and further compositions were welcomedby both factions in Russian musical life, the nationalist and the so-calledGerman.


Glazunov continued his association withRimsky-Korsakov until the latter's death in 1908. It was in his company that hebecame a regular member of the circle of musicians under the patronage of Belyayev,perceived by Balakirev as a rival to his own influence. Belyayev introduced Glazunovto Liszt, whose support led to the spread of the young composer's reputationabroad. The First Symphony was performed in Weimar in 1884, the Second directedby Glazunov at the 1889 Paris Exhibition. The Fourth and FifthSymphonies were introduced to the London public in 1897. In 1899 Glazunov joined thestaff of the Conservatory in St Petersburg and in 1905, when peace was restored to theinstitution after student demonstrations, he became Director, a position heheld, nominally at least, unti11930.


In 1928 Glazunov left Russia to fulfil concert engagementsabroad, finally, in 1932, making his home in Paris, where he died four yearslater. These last years took him to a number of countries, where he conductedconcerts of his own works. In England a reporter compared his appearance to that of aprosperous retired tea-planter, with his gold watch-chain spread across hisstarched white waistcoat, resembling, for all the world, a well-to-do bank-manager.

His views on modern music were often severe. He found the Heldenleben ofRichard Strauss disgusting and referred to the composer as cet infdme scribouiIleur.

Of Stravinsky he remarked that he had irrefutable proof of the inadequacyof his ear. Nevertheless it was under his direction that the Conservatoryproduced a number of very distinguished musicians. While Prokofiev did littleto endear himself to Glazunov, Shostakovich received considerable encouragementand was unstinting in his admiration of the older composer as a markedinfluence on all the students with whom he had contact, to whom Glazunov was aliving legend.


Glazunov's incidental music to the play TheKing of the Jews (Tsar Iudeyskiy) was composed in 1913 for a religiousdrama written by the Grand Duke Konstantin, to be performed at the Hermitage bya group of army officers. Glazunov had been approached in 1912 by Captain Danilchenkoof the Ismailov Regiment and the producer Nikolay Nikolayevich Arbatov. Atfirst he was unenthusiastic, but his interest was aroused when he read thetext, in which Christ himself never appears, but is seen only by the actors.

Glazunov later explained how a melody came to him, to be associated with thefigure of Christ on the cross, a theme that was at the basis of the whole work,as he conceived it. He worked on the original score in the spring of 1913,completing it in the autumn, when he played the music through to the Grand Dukeat the Pavlov Palace. Winning immediateapproval, he then set about orchestrating the work, devising it in a form thatwould also allow concert performance. The court orchestra was conducted by HugoWarlich, with stage direction by Arbatov and choreography by Fokin. The GrandDuke took the part of Josef, with professional actors in other major roles,minor parts being left to officers of the Imperial Guard. The play was firstperformed in the Hermitage Theatre on 9thJanuary 1914, but the music was laterplayed under Glazunov's direction in a number of cities. He himself related howthe officers of the Ismailov Regiment remembered in particular the chorus forthe resurrection of Christ, in the difficult times of war that lay ahead.


Thevery Russian score that Glazunov provided for the drama begins with a serene Introductionleading to the first chorus, greeting Christ with hosannas. This isimmediately followed by the strongly liturgical Song of the Disciples ofJesus. The Entr' acte before the second act is again markedlyRussian in feeling. It is followed by the brass of the Levite trumpets and theact ends in tragedy. The Entr' acte to the first scene of the third actleads to a sombre march, while the second scene Entr'acte, openingstrongly, ends on a more plaintive note. The Syrian Dance provides anote of relative exoticism, while the shepherd plays a pipe, rather than a musette.

The music ends with the fervent Psalm of the Believers, the chorus thatappealed so strongly to the officers of the Ismailov Regiment.

Item number 8553575
Barcode 730099457521
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 Golovschin, Igor
Golovschin, Igor
Orchestras Capella, Moscow
Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Capella, Moscow
Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Producers Inc. Betta International
Inc. Betta International
Disc: 1
The King of the Jews
1 Introduction and Chorus
2 Song of the Disciples of Jesus
3 Entr'acte to Act II
4 Trumpets of the Levites
5 Act II - Conclusion
6 Entr'acte to Act III, Scene 1
7 Entr'acte to Act III, Scene 2
8 Syrian Dance
9 Entr'acte to Act IV
10 Shepherd's Musette
11 Psalm of the Believers
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