Much of Glazunov’s
chamber music radiates a bonhomonious and relaxed avuncularity
hard to dislike. The 1881 String Quintet for instance, written
on two-cello, Schubertian lines, cleaves strongly, resiliently
and ultimately successfully to lyric models without ever quite
persuading the listener of any great independence of spirit,
or true memorability. Genial and unhurried, the Fine Arts with
Nathaniel Rosen take it, justly, at face value. Phrasing is
warm and affectionate; rhythms are moulded and not detonated;
homogeneity of string tone ensures a capacious sound. The scherzo’s
guitar imitations by way of violin pizzicati bring varied colour.
And the movement’s broadening is forceful and adept and the
trio offers sufficient contrast to keep the ear interested.
The lyric and songful slow movement stakes no claims to the
lachrymose or to profundity. Certainly the most Russian of the
movements is the finale though it’s interrupted by a sprightly
if ultimately academic fugato that tends to divert the current
of vibrancy that has been established.
Coupled with the
Quintet is a far better known work, the Five Novelettes, one
of which was given a its disc premiere back in the First World
War by the London String Quartet but which was most memorably
inscribed by the Hollywood. That classic is fortunately still
with us on Testament SBT 1061 where it shares all-Russian disc
space with Tchaikovsky and Borodin. No one has yet managed to
shake my allegiance from this but the Fine Arts give a good
account of themselves in their less glamorous way. They manage
to find a degree of transparency in the Alla spagnuola
with its lightly tinted Spanish influence, and do justice to
the breezy folklore of the Orientale. Any quartet worth
its salt will need to evoke the richness of Borodin in the Interludium
and the first violin, Ralph Evans, takes on the Eastern Orthodox
declamation well. The finale’s Hungarian spirit is really only
a superficial one but the pizzicati are lightly done nevertheless,
and the theme’s similarity to Yankee Doodle is as strong
As suggested the
performances are sympathetic and accomplished and the recording
allows plenty of detail to register without becoming clinical.
Genial Glazunovians will enjoy the wares on offer.