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Symphony No.6 in C minor,Op. 58. The Forest, Op. 19.
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Anissimov.
Naxos 8.554293 [DDD] [59'10].

It is good to see another Glazunov Sixth in the catalogue, this one being particularly welcome because of its appealing coupling (and, of course, its price). The competition listed in the current catalogue comprises Rozhdestvensky, Butt and Jarvi, but I could not resist playing the 1948 Golovanov/Moscow Symphony Orchestra for comparison purposes, if only to re-experience some authentically Russian gritty, fervent playing (Arlecchino ARL A60, currently absent from the lists - temporarily, one hopes).

The symphony was completed in 1896, receiving its first performance in February of the following year. Glazunov's appealing harmonic and orchestrational palette create an individual sound-world - there are many felicitous touches of colour throughout. The Moscow Symphony Orchestra play with obvious commitment, which overrides an occasional scrappiness in the upper strings. Wlist Anissimov takes the slow introduction to the first movement too quickly to realise the full import oif the ideas presented (more Andante than the indicated Adagio), his symphonic argument is both cogent and dramatic in the movement proper.

The middle two movements are a delight, and I felt continuously astonished at the fertility of Glazunov's imagination. The second is a theme and variations, in which the woodwind have a chance to shine. In particular, listen to the oboe solo in the second variation, or to the wind 'comments' at 8'10. The brief Intermezzo third movement evinces much charm (although the conclusion could have been allowed more humour), but it is the finale that is most successful. I would have liked the introductory Andante maestoso to be more brooding and foreboding, but once the tempo picks up so does the mood. There is a tangible dance-like feel present in the rest of the movement, the phrasing affectingly lilting. This is not to deny the element of drama - witness the timpani roll introducing the fugato passage near the end of the symphony.

The orchestral fantasy, 'The Forest', Op. 19 (completed in 1887) is an imaginative fill-up. Disliked and dismissed by both Rimsky-Korsakov and Balakirev, it would seem to have had the odds stacked against it from the word go, and whilst it is true that it perhaps outstays its welcome just a little, there is much to admire in its 21-minute duration. There is a most appealing Eastern tang to the introduction (remember the Oriental Rhapsody, Op. 29 dates from only two years later), and a supernatural feeling imbues much of the piece. The scoring is deft and masterly - even the naive bird imitation by piccolo and solo violin is touchingly sweet, and I can't share Balakirev's qualms about the clarinet theme which depicts the nymph episode. Listen out for the similarity of the trombone theme at around the ten minute mark to the first theme of Liszt's 'Faust Symphony', S108 (interestingly, completed in the same year).

The recording is in the main satisfactory, except for a tendency to crowd at climaxes in the Symphony. In addition, I would have welcomed a little more depth overall. However, this issue is wholeheartedly recommended for anyone that wishes to investigate this fascinating repertoire at minimum outlay.


Colin Clarke



and Ian Lace adds

Naxos's excellent Glazunov Orchestral Works reaches its 13th volume with this new release. As with Glazunov's other eight symphonies the entries in the record catalogues are rather sparse and once again, this seems to be the only budget priced version available. The sleeve blurb claims that the Sixth Symphony is one of Glazunov's most frequently performed works. It certainly is very approachable and it brims with melodies, not the sort that spin around in your head for days, I might add, but tunes that are nonetheless most appealing.

Glazunov's Sixth Symphony dates from 1896 at a time when the composer shared conducting duties, with Rimsky-Korsakov, of the Russian Symphony Concerts. First performed in the following year, it was acclaimed by Rimsky-Korsakov as the highest point at that time in the composer's development and a sign of a new era in Russian music.

I have been fortunate enough to review Anissimov's readings of many of the other Glazunov symphonies in this series, for other publications. They compare reasonably well with the acclaimed Järvi recordings on Orfeo and the unfolding excellent Chandos series with Polyansky and the Russian State Symphony Orchestra (delivered in much better sound). Once again, for the Sixth Symphony, Anissimov delivers a reading that mixes considerable excitement with finely judged sensitivity. His opening movement has epic heroic grandeur with music that crackles with energy; but he also paints, where appropriate, in more sombre colours and he imbues Glazunov's lovely romantic melody with a radiant purity. The second movement is probably the most attractive and interesting of the work: a set of variations with another beautiful wistful string tune as the theme, which passes through variations that initially give the music a rustic quality -- first serene then joyful. A Fugato variation presents the strings in darker hue before the music progresses to a nocturne that uncannily anticipates Delius. A merry country dance variation leads into a final, rather pompous march with brass prominent. The brief Intermezzo-Allegretto is Glazunov in typical feather-weight ballet mode while the finale is very much like the opening movement in its various moods.

Rimsky-Korsakov was rather scathing in his opinion of Glazunov's earlier work, The Forest, composed in1882. Moreover, Balakirev found the nymph episode unsatisfactory and the hunt music unreal. Although somewhat inflated, at 21 minutes duration, The Forest nevertheless has its moments and Anissimov makes a strong enough case for it. The episodic music has fairly sparkling music for the nymphs and there is dark brooding mysterious material suggesting unimaginable horrors deep in the impenetrable forest and, of course, there is gentler material that might suggest lovers' trysts under the boughs in sunnier bowers. On the whole a confident recommendation.


Ian Lace


Colin Clarke


Ian Lace

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