Classical Reissue Reviews

GLAZUNOV: Complete Symphonies & Concertos – Soloists/Royal Scottish Nat. Orch. & Russian Nat. Orch./ Jose Serebrier – Warner Classics (8-CDs)

A magnificent collection without direct competition, but with excellent performances and sonics.

Published on August 29, 2012

ALEXANDER GLAZUNOV: Complete Symphonies & Concertos – [TrackList follows] Soloists/Royal Scottish Nat. Orch. & Russian Nat. Orch./ Jose Serebrier – Warner Classics 8-CD box set 2564 66-467-4 [6/26/12] (Distr. by Naxos) *****:

Glazunov was a most important Russian composer of the late Romantic period, and was also a conductor and music teacher. He was director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory of 22 years, and his best-known student was Shostakovich. He reconciled nationalism and cosmopolitanism in Russian music, and his many works over the years showed influences of Borodin, Balakirev, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov—staying in the old-fashioned Romantic style. He despised the newer generations of Western composers, beginning with Debussy, calling them recherché cacophonists.

Glazunov wrote eight symphonies, five concertos, seven string quartets, two piano sonatas, three ballets and many other orchestral and chamber pieces and songs. Other records have been available of some or all of the symphonies, but most are either Soviet-era recordings with faulty sonics, rather poor performances (Naxos) or Western recordings but still in poor sound (Chandos). Serebrier clearly loves and is sympathetic to the Glazunov works, has two fine orchestras under his direction, and Warner Classics gives him excellent recording quality thruout. The price is also very reasonable for the set of eight CDs.

While conservative in style, the symphonies are in no way shallow or slavishly fitting Soviet musical requirements, but are high examples of fine Russian musical art. The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth are probably the most popular. Sometimes the scoring is a bit thick, but the clear and open sonics of this set make them much less smeared than the old Melodiya records. The other five symphonies are equally well presented.

The First Piano Concerto is a striking work with soloist Alexander Romanovsky, also heard on the Second Piano Concerto. The First would appeal to anyone liking the Scriabin and Arensky piano concerti. Rachel Barton Pine is the superb violinist in the Violin Concerto in A minor, and Marc Chisson handles well the more modern Western influences heard in the Glazunov Saxophone Concerto.

A different, more staid view of Salome’s Dance is provided by Glazunov, and two of his ballets are among the several filler selections. While the Raymonda Suite is nice, the primary attraction is his delightful one-act ballet which offers a different view of The Seasons from that of Vivaldi. The main themes of both Spring and Autumn are absolutely unforgettable.

Each of the eight CDs comes in its own card sleeve, but the accompanying booklet has only the details on the tracks. You must access the complete notes by downloading a PDF file from the Warner Classics site. This set has no direct competition for all of the Glazunov symphonies and concertos, in such sympathetic performances and with excellent sound. During September we will be awarding this terrific set to seven lucky AUDIOPHILE AUDITION readers who register on our site.

TrackList:

CD 1 [58:53]
Symphony No. 3 in D major, op. 33 (1890-92) [48:12]
Symphony No. 9 in D major, Unfinished orch. Gavriil Yudin (1909) [10:32]

CD 2 [77:48]
Symphony No. 2 in F sharp minor, op. 16 (1886) [43:22]
Symphony No. 1 in E major, op. 5, Slavyanskaya (1881) [34:17]

CD 3 [69:59]
Symphony No. 4 in E flat major op. 48 (1893) [33:31]
Symphony No. 7 in F major op. 77 Pastoral (1902) [36:21]

CD 4 [70:31]
Symphony No. 5 in B flat major op. 55 (1895) [32:36]
The Seasons – ballet in one act – op. 67 (1901) [36:38]

CD 5 [66:48]
Symphony No. 6 in C minor op. 58 (1896) [35:51]
The Sea – Fantasy in E major op.28 (1890) [15:22]
Salome – Introduction and Dance op.90 (1908) [15:19]

CD 6 [78:50]
Symphony No. 8 in E flat major op. 83 (1905) [42:28]
Raymonda- suite from the ballet op. 57a (1898) [36:42]

CD 7 [56:11]
Concerto in A minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 82 (1904) [20:18]
Chant du Ménestrel (for cello) Op. 71 (1901) [3:55]
Concerto No. 2 for Piano with Orchestra in B major Op. 100 (1917) [18:30]
Concerto in E flat for Saxophone and String Orchestra Op. 109 (1936) [13:11]

CD 8 [57:48]
Concerto No. 1 for Piano with Orchestra in F minor, Op. 92 (1911) [30:15]
Reverie Op.24 (for French horn) (1890) [3:12]
Concerto Ballata for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 108 (1931) [19:52]
Méditation, Op. 32 (for violin) (1891) [4:11]

—John Sunier




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