Alexander Glazunov CDs
Recently Fuga Libera issued a CD (FUG 521) with Glazunov's Piano Concerto No. 1 in F minor opus 92 and his Symphony No. 5 in B flat major opus 55, performed by Severin von Eckardstein (piano) with the National Orchestra of Belgium, conducted by Walter Weller.
These two performances were recorded in June 2006 in the National Theatre of Brussels.
Composed in 1911 the First Piano Concerto is an ill-fated masterpiece. Glazunov wrote it for Leoplod Godowsky, one of the most brilliant pianists of his time, whom he greatly admired. The Concerto was published in 1912, a time
when Godowsky was starting on his interminable and triumphant tour of the USA. The concerto did not appear om his programme "because the societies want the artist to play things they know" as Godowsky declared in an interview for Musical America of 12 November 1912.
The war surprised Godowsky on holiday by the Belgian coast; and after this, America became his second home, while Glazunov became a 'Bolshevik composer'.
The Fifth Symphony, composed in 1895, lies at the exact midpoint of the composer's catalogue of symphonies. The score, deciated to Sergei Taneyev, is at any rate exemplary with regard to the level of mastery attained by Glazunov at the age of thirty. Beethoven, Mendelssohn and
Borodin are perceptible in it, without it ever being possible to mistake the individuality of the style, Russian but not exclusively so.
In common with most Russian composers, piano music holds a significant place in the works of Alexander Glazunov. Virtually every aspect of his talent is exhibited here:
his skill as a miniaturist, the elegance of his salon music, his harmonic adventurousness and his mastery of counterpoint and large-scale forms.
Alexander Glazunov was Russia's greatest symphonist after Tchaikovsky and personally handed down this legacy to Shostakovich.
Hyperion re-issued Glazunov's complete solo piano music on four CDs on his Helios-label. The first CD (CDH 55221) contains seven works for piano:
Suite on the name 'SASCHA' opus 2, Three Miniatures opus 42, Valse de SAlon opus 43, Grande Valse de Concert opus 41, Waltzes on the theme 'SABELA' opus 23,
Petite Valse opus 36 and Piano Sonata No. 1 in B flat minor opus 74.
The second CD (CDH 55222) contains Glazunov's Three Etudes opus 31 and eight other works for piano.
The Three Etudes opus 31 are among his most importatnt works for piano. Glazunov's TWo Pieces opus 22 are typical of Glazunov's easy charm and
together with his Three Pieces opus 49 and Nocturne opus 37 represent a significant contribution to the salon genre that was so common in late nineteenth century Russian music.
The Miniature in C, Easy Sonata and Sonatina are all relics of Glazunov's early studies with Rimsky-Korsakov. The Two Prelude-Improvisations belong to Glazunov's final period as a composer. To conclude the Theme and Variations opus 72 is one of three large-scale works for piano.
Originally given the title 'Variations on a Finnish Folk Song', the folk song used as its theme is the same one at the root of Glazunov's later Finnish Fantasy for orchestra. The work comprises a theme and fifteen variations and is undoubtedly one of his most successful and attractive forays into the piano medium.
Disc Three (CDH 55223) is the 'Preludes and Fugues' CD. The Prelude and Fugue opus 62 is the earliest and also the most overtly dramatic of Glazunov's six such works.
In 1910 and 1915 Glazunov wrote two more preludes and fugues for organ, but it was not until 1918 that he completed his Four Preludes and Fugues opus 101 for piano. By 1918 Glazunov's music must have seemed anachronistic.
Stravinsky and Prokofiev were the new voices of Russian music and we can hear Glazunov's attempts to keep up with the avant-garde in his Two Prelude-Improvisations, also written in 1918.
Finally we have the Prelude and Fugue in E minor which was written in 1926 and, like the earlier opus 62, was also later arranged for organ. It is dedicated to Leonid Nikolayev, a friend of Glazunov and also Shostakovich's piano professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
The fourth CD (CDH 55224) begins with the Prelude and Two Mazurkas opus 25. Mazurkas were a particularly popular idiom for piano pieces at the time and most of Glazunov's contemporaries wrote several examples (Balakirev).
A more unusual work is the Barcarolle on Black Keys, composed in 1887. The Two Impromptus opus 54 are Glazunov's farewell to the nineteenth century salon genre. Written in 1895 they are as fresh and charming as his first piano work,
the Suite on the name 'SASCHA' opus 2.
The Idylle opus 103, tohether with the Prelude and Fugue in E minor, marks the end of Glazunov's work as a piano composer. The next four works on this disc -Triumphal March opus 40, Song of the Volga Boatmen opus 97, In Modo Religioso opus 38 and Pas de Caractere opus 68 are transcriptions for piano solo by Glazunov.
Finally Piano Sonata No. 2 is formidably challenging.
Alyabiev, a 19th century Russian composer
Fuga Libera issued a CD with Works of Alexander
Alyabiev: The Magic Drum, orchestral and incidental music (Fuga Libera FUG 539), performed by
the Musica Viva Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Rudin. This CD contains his Symphony No. 3
in E-minor for four horns and orchestra, five Overtures, Variations on the Ukrainian the The
Cossack on the Danube and the Symphonic Poem The Tempest.
Alyabiev spent his childhood years (1787-1794) in the small town of Tobolsk, in western Siberia,
at the confluence of the fast waters of the Tobolsk river and the mighty Irtysh. This town was
however not so remote thanks to its status of administrative centre of Siberia, which made
Tobolsk an important base for administrative services and military administration from the Ural
The privileged position of the family enabled them to invite distinguished teachers for the
musical education of Alexander Alyabiev, amongst which, in Moscow already as from 1805, the
brilliant Irish pianist John Field stands out.
Alyabiev went into Siberian exile (1828-1832) as a convict but was welcomed there as the son
of the most loved governor of Tobolsk in history. Church choirs, symphonic and wind orchestras
performed in the pieces commissioned to the composer and he was even allowed to take a boat
to the far-away town of Omsk to direct the musical festivities of the arrny.
During his time of exile in the Caucasus (1832-1833), taking advantage of the favourable
disposition of general Alexei Alexandrovich Veliaminov, Alyabiev obtained every possibility
to compose and used the opportunity with all his strength; he composed a musically remarkable
cycle The Caucasian Singer and another cycle of inspired romances, dedicated to his beloved
Ekaterina Alexandrovna Rimsky-Korsakov. He wrote down motives from the mountain folklore,
wrote compositions for the church choir, and worked on the harmonisation of folk melodies for
the compilation of Maximovitch's Voices from the Ukrainian Songs.
Although never fully revealed, the influence of Alyabiev on Russian music was important and
diverse. His vocal cycles initiated the genre in Russia. The score of his ballet The Magic
Drum (1827) represents a huge progress in the art of instrumentation and by its repetition
of the whole overture during the finale it anticipates Glinka's opera Ruslan and Ludmila (1842).
He also introduced Shakespeare's plays to new audiences in opera's The Tempest and A
Midsummer's Night Dream and in instrumental and vocal pieces from the comedy The Merry Wives
of Windsor. Moreover his opera Amalat-Bek, which he duly finished but which was never
performed, incited many composers to look towards the Caucasus for inspiration. In his opera
The Fisherman and the Mermaid he uses the dramatic motive of the love potion, inspired by
Mei's tale The Tsar's Bride (1849) which would be reflected half a century later in the
eponymous opera by Rimsky-Korsakov (1898).
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