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Thread: Making friends with Glazunov's symphonic poems, pictures, fantasies, rhapsodies

  1. #46
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    Ballads for orchestra are not common. Among Russian works Tchaikovsky’s The Voyevoda is best known; there are also symphonic ballads by Miaskovsky, Lyapunov – and Glazunov: the Ballad in F major, op. 72 (1902). The work does not have a program though it shares certain romantic material with the composer’s suite From the Middle Ages. It is in ternary form and pastoral as is suggested by the key of F major. First there is a slow, lyrical section with a repeated motif expressing intense yearning. The middle fast section is march-like, with calls by a trio of trumpets suggesting chivalric medieval times. After a spectacular evocation of nature the opening section returns, modified with reminiscences of the trumpets and associated figures.

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    Our last two Glazunov orchestral works are based on national or regional affinities. The Finnish Fantasy, op. 88 (1909) is based on two folk songs, the first evoking cuckoo-bird calls. From this base the composer weaves an orchestral canvas that has great contrasts in mood. Between simple thematic statements are brilliantly-orchestrated passages varying among the virtuosic, the chromatic, the contrapuntal, and much else. The chorale Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) enters near the close in acknowledgement of Finland’s prominent Lutheran Church.

    There are two options available on record: the Moscow SO/Igor Golovschin on Naxos (1999) or the Glazunov collected works by the USSR SO/Svetlanov.

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  4. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    Our last two Glazunov orchestral works are based on national or regional affinities. The Finnish Fantasy, op. 88 (1909) is based on two folk songs, the first evoking cuckoo-bird calls. From this base the composer weaves an orchestral canvas that has great contrasts in mood. Between simple thematic statements are brilliantly-orchestrated passages varying among the virtuosic, the chromatic, the contrapuntal, and much else. The chorale Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) enters near the close in acknowledgement of Finland’s prominent Lutheran Church.

    There are two options available on record: the Moscow SO/Igor Golovschin on Naxos (1999) or the Glazunov collected works by the USSR SO/Svetlanov.
    Roger, I have been reading your comments throughout with a great deal of interest. Much appreciated!

    I think I am going to have a Glazunov blitz at some stage in the near future. A few years back I trawled the second hand sellers on Amazon and the like and collected what I think is all of the Naxos recordings, which did include for me a third or fourth set of the Symphonies. I found a lot of his music thoroughly enjoyable, but not as attention-grabbing as some, but I feel better equipped now! Thanks!
    Last edited by CnC Bartok; Oct-17-2021 at 12:43.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CnC Bartok View Post
    Roger, I have been reading your comments throughout with a great deal of interest. Much appreciated!

    I think I am going to have a Glazunov blitz at some stage in the near future. A few years back I trawled the second hand sellers on Amazon and the like and collected what I think is all of the Naxos recordings, which did include for me a third or fourth set of the Symphonies. I found a lot of his music thoroughly enjoyable, but not as attention-grabbing as some, but I feel better equipped now! Thanks!
    CnC Bartok, many thanks for your comments , which I'm really thankful for! Hope you enjoy your "Glazunov blitz" as much as I have mine. Will look forward to what you have to say about the recordings and works.

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    Our last work from the list in post #36 is the Karelian Legend for Orchestra, op. 99 (1916). It is appropriate for the month of Halloween, as is another Russian work in the legend genre: Kikimora, op. 63 (1909) by Anatoly Liadov, which depicts witches. Curiously the Karelian Legend program parallels at the opening that of Glazunov’s much earlier The Sea; this time it is a young man sitting by the shore of a lake towards sunset. Pines rustle, a cuckoo calls, and … beware if you go further as this is a dark work. The recording and program are here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTdA...=TheNewFlutist

    Formally, I think perhaps the program has too much sway over this 22-minute piece. Yet impressionistic touches in orchestration, rhythm (syncopation, 7/4 meter at one point) and harmony (parallelism, unresolved dissonant triads) are notable strengths, belying Glazunov’s reputation as a rigid conservative. Recordings are those given above for the Finnish Fantasy.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Oct-19-2021 at 01:50.

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    Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this thread! There are quite a few posts that I haven’t replied to yet, but will. Also, please continue to send comments on Glazunov’s orchestral music. Another option as mentioned before is the excellent Glazunov Composer Guestbook.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kreisler jr View Post
    The Rozhdestvensky has the typical CCCP sound, rather rough but often exciting. I have 3 discs in older issues and it's good enough for me but some dislike that sound. There is also Svetlanov (I think one cycle from Soviet times and one live from the 1990s).

    Hurwitz trashed most of the Soviet/Russian recordings recently, but that's only him. For "completeness" I got the Serebrier box and it is quite nice although little of it will become my favorite music. It's pleasant music but not much more. I have to admit that I find the violin concerto even more hackneyed than the Tchaikovsky...
    Hurwitz's attitude towards Soviet recordings is pretty much biased. I love those Soviet fierce often pompous recordings full of sound and wild rhythms. Each conductor could develop his own sound. Mravinsky, Svetlanov or Golovanov could be easily distinguished.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MusicSybarite View Post
    Yes, I do. Järvi/Chandos for From the Middle Ages and Svetlanov/Melodiya for Scènes de Ballet.
    Thanks, Music Sybarite, for the recommendations! For the symphonic suite From the Middle Ages I listened to Fedoseyev/Moscow RSO. Having studied classical music as presented by western musicology, I know that my image of the middle ages is different than that of Glazunov, who is influenced by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the architecture and chivalric society of medieval Russia. Nevertheless, his work is thoroughly convincing on musical grounds and the Fedoseyev-led recording evokes the aura and feelings of times gone by. For the suite Scènes de ballet the recording I heard is the same as yours. This suite is a lot of fun and carries the sense of reliability I find with Glazunov -- that he will capture the essentials and do at least as well as anyone else with the project he takes on. Of course dance is one of his specialties and I always have time for a Glazunov waltz!

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    Glazunov Overtures, Anyone?

    I've just listened to Alexander Glazunov's Overture No. 1 on Three Greek Themes, Op. 3 (1882), a concert overture composed when he was seventeen that sounds like a work of early maturity. My impression is that he never wrote a work that is less than good.

    To my knowledge there are four more Glazunov concert overtures demanding immediate attention. If anyone wishes to beat me to the punch, the clock is ticking!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    Glazunov Overtures, Anyone?I've just listened to Alexander Glazunov's Overture No. 1 on Three Greek Themes, Op. 3 (1882), a concert overture composed when he was seventeen ... To my knowledge there are four more Glazunov concert overtures demanding immediate attention.
    Glazunov also composed an Overture No. 2 on Greek Themes, Op. 6 (1883). Unfortunately the material and working-out is not as strong as in the beautifully harmonized and orchestrated Overture No. 1.

    Of his others I particularly like the Overture solennelle, Op. 73 (1900). Despite the title this is an exciting work! Carnaval: Overture for large orchestra and organ ad lib., Op 45 (1892) is virtuosic and high-spirited, with an effective contrasting central section for organ and strings. Only the Song of Destiny: Dramatic Overture, op. 84 (1908) disappoints. It is uninspired and the repetitive references to the so-called "Fate Knocking at the Door" motif from Beethoven's Fifth make it less than dramatic.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Nov-08-2021 at 01:02.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jim prideaux View Post
    Now with Serebrier/RSNO and the 5th. ... The 5th was the first piece I heard from Glazunov. I had been aware of his name for years and then it occurred to me that it was about time I gave him a listen so I decided to get hold of this particular recording. That was a while ago now......but I am really enjoying this reacquaintance today!
    Jim Prideaux: Rather late with this reply, my apologies! Concerning Glazunov symphonies I commented in post #43 about the innovative form of his wonderful Symphony No. 4. Recently I listened to a Leningrad PO/Mravinsky recording of Glazunov's No. 5 (1895) which, though in the conventional four movements, is innovative too. The first movement takes on the challenging task of using triadic patterns -- broken chords and arpeggios -- and half of a major scale as its material throughout. There are thematic variations, key changes, ingenious counterpoint and orchestration. Still, for me the effect is in the direction of "pattern music," rather than dramatically symphonic process with high-profile melodies and mood contrasts that we associate with late romanticism. It's a pastoral movement, a little plain too for me, restful to be sure. Although completely different in spirit, might Glazunov have been influenced by the monothematic first movement of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade (1888)?

    (cont.'d in next post)
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Nov-13-2021 at 21:40.

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    (cont.'d) Glazunov's Symphony No. 5

    Glazunov No. 5's second movement is yet another of his distinctive scherzos, nimble and delightfully orchestrated. The following slow movement is compelling and memorable. And the finale, at least at Mravinsky's blistering tempo, becomes a whirlwind by the end with the virtuosity of the Leningrad Philharmonic leaving me in total amazement. A terrific work, though I like No. 4 still more.

    However I continue to see patronizing comments that Glazunov's music is "pleasant," etc., a sort of weak tea perhaps. Maybe he is best appreciated by people like me who discover his music when they are past age 65 and don't have previous attitudes to overcome.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Nov-13-2021 at 21:42.

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