GLAZUNOV: The Kremlin / From the Middle Ages / Poeme Lirique

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Alexander Glazunov (1865 -1936)

The Kremlin, Op. 30

From the Middle Ages, Op. 79

Poeme Iyrique, Op. 12

Poeme epique, Op. posth.


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 impressed Balakirevand attracted the attention and friendship of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov wasto be held against him. A Russian critic could praise him for thereconciliation he had apparently effected between the Russian music of his timeand the music of Western Europe, but for a considerable time the Sovietauthorities regarded his music as bourgeois, while one of the most eminent ofwriters in the West on Russian music, Gerald Abraham, considered that it had fallento Glazunov to lead what he described as the comfortable decline of Russianmusic into ignominious mediocrity. Recent critics have occasionally taken amore balanced view of Glazunov's achievement. Due respect is paid to hissuccess in bringing about a synthesis of Russian and Western European music,the tradition of the Five and that of Rubinstein, founder of the St PetersburgConservatory and a system of professional training for musicians. Boris Schwarzhas summarised the composer's career neatly, allowing him to have been acomposer of imposing stature and a stabilising influence in a time oftransition and turmoil.


Bornin St Petersburgin 1865, the son of a publisher and bookseller, as a child Glazunov showedconsiderable ability in music and in 1879 met Balakirev, who encouraged the boyto broaden his general musical education, while taking lessons fromRimsky-Korsakov. By the age of sixteen he had completed the first of his ninesymphonies, a work that was performed in 1882 under the direction of Balakirev,and further compositions were welcomed by both factions in Russian musicallife, the nationalist and the so-called German.


Glazunovcontinued his association with Rimsky-Korsakovuntil the latter's death in 1909.

It was in his company that he became a regular member of the circle ofmusicians under the patronage of Belyayev, perceived by Balakirev as a rival tohis own influence. Belyayev introduced Glazunov to Liszt, whose support led tothe spread of the young composer's reputation abroad. The First Symphony wasperformed in Weimar in 1884, the Seconddirected by 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.


In1928 Glazunov left Russia to fulfil concert engagements abroad, finally, in 1932, making hishome in Paris, where he died fouryears later. These last years took him to a number of countries, where heconducted concerts of his own works. In England a reporter comparedhis appearance to that of a prosperous retired tea-planter, with his gold watch-chainspread across his starched white waistcoat, resembling, for all the world, awell-to-do bank- manager. His views on modern music were often severe. He foundthe Heldenleben of Richard Strauss disgusting and referred to thecomposer as'' cet inf3me scribouilleur". Of Stravinsky he remarked that hehad irrefutable proof of the inadequacy of his ear. Nevertheless it was underhis direction that the Conservatory produced a number of very distinguishedmusicians. While Prokofiev did little to endear himself to Glazunov,Shostakovich, whose father secured a supply of vodka for his son's teacher,received considerable encouragement and was unstinting in his admiration of theolder composer as a marked influence on all the students with whom he hadcontact, to whom Glazunov was a living legend.


Thesymphonic picture The Kremlin was written in 1890 and is fully inthe nationalist mood, as characterized by Glazunov's mentor Rimsky-Korsakov.

The picture is, in fact, thoroughly Russian in its thematic content, revealingthe heart of Russia in the great monuments of the Kremlin, its palaces andcathedrals, in music that seems to reflect something of the music of the Fiveand something of what was to come with the Russian ballets of Rimsky-Korsakov's pupil Stravinsky. The first of the three movements shows thegrandeur of the Kremlin, against which is set a popular festival, before themeditative and religious mood of the second movement, with the tolling of thebell and the solemn traditional chant. The third movement brings a lighteningof atmosphere, with music of alternating energy and lyricism, ending inexultant triumph, for the entry of the Prince.


Thereis a further return to an older world in the suite Iz srednikh vekov (Fromthe Middle Ages), written in 1902. The opening Prelude, ominous in itsfirst bars, moves forward to something more lyrical and romantic in contour, asyoung lovers lie together, oblivious of the stormy sea outside the castle. Thesecond movement Scherzo bursts in, with all its vigour, a street-actor'sDance of Death, a demonstration again of Glazunov's mastery of instrumentalcolour. This leads, without a perceptible break, to the third movement, Troubadour'sSerenade, with its harp accompaniment and gently extended melody that graduallydies away to nothing. The suite ends with The Crusaders. A fanfareintroduces music of martial character, although there are again moments oflyrical contrast, with a meditative element suggested by the nature of thesubject, ending in a hymn of triumph.


Glazunov'spoeme lyrique was written between 1884 and 1887, during the first yearsof his connection with Belyayev. The work opens with a fine-spun melody ofessentially romantic dimension, Russian in its colouring, if less so in itsthematic content. The poeme epique was written in 1933 and 1934 duringthe composer's final years in Paris, in honour of the Academie des Beaux Artsde l'lnstitut de France. Any programme to this Russian epic bilina, withfinely crafted music, an example of Glazunov's continuing sureness of touch andcommand of earlier idiom in what is by now a new age, is best left to theimagination of the listener. Nevertheless, thematically, the work is based onthe letter-names A, C, A, D, E (mi) and E, although it is completely in theearlier idiom of The Kremlin.

Item number 8553537
Barcode 730099453721
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
Poeme epique, Op. posth.
1 Popular Festival
2 In the Cloister
3 The Entrance and the Coronation of the Prince
4 Prelude
5 Scherzo
6 The Troubador's Serenade
7 Finale: the Crusaders
8 Poeme lyrique, Op. 12
9 Poeme epique, Op. posth.
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