Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

The King of the Jews (1913) 53.33
Introduction and Dance of Salome (1908) 15.31
Russian State Symphonic Cappella
Russian State SO/Valeri Polyansky
rec Moscow Jan 1998 May 1997
CHANDOS CHAN9824 [69.09]


Chandos continue to pace themselves generously as they unfurl their Glazunov edition. This is by comparison with the uneven, occasionally brilliant and likely to be frighteningly comprehensive Naxos budget series.

Polyansky has already established himself in my judgement as a conductor who takes time to luxuriate in the passing beauties of the Glazunov symphonies. This is a dangerous course and I believe it has eaten away a little of the boisterous vitality of the symphonies. On the other hand he is a sensitively poetic conductor who is most appositely served by Chandos's high qualities of recording and packaging

The competing Naxos version of the music for King of the Jews is amongst the best in their series. The current Chandos version offers, in Salome, an additional 'slice' and one of some substance and attraction. The fact that the style of the music in both pieces was backward-looking at the time of its premiere matters little to us now. The only issue is whether it convinces now and there is little doubt of that.

Glazunov's Salome is the same literary model (Oscar Wilde) as Richard Strauss's although Glazunov's approach is quite unlike the German composer's. The introduction is touched with expectation in the sighing romance of Rachmaninov's Second Symphony and the floating harmonies of Mussorgsky's Dawn on the Moskva. The Dance undulates using every epicurean flavour associated with Russian-Oriental music - Asian and Arabian. It is not especially erotic except at the eruptive surge of the brass and strings at 5.48.

The King of the Jews: The Introduction is reverential and quietly majestic - like gazing from a Russian cupola towards Vaughan Williams' fifth symphony. This serenity carries over into the Act II entr'acte. The sweetly liquid tone of the horns is notable in the Levite's Trumpets movement. Polyansky seems very much at ease with himself in this music. This observation is prompted by the expansive ebb and flow of the entr'acte to act iv. The choral singing is of a very high devotional order glowing with sincerity. The serrated edge of the brass in track 9 (0045) strikes grimly home. The Syrian Dance is classically Rimskian gurgling and swaying with exotic adventure close to the Salome dance.

There is no direct competition for this disc. The Naxos CD has no coupling for the King of the Jews music. The Chandos is a luxurious production in sound, design and notes.

I await Polyansky's Glazunov 8 with much anticipation.

Rob Barnett

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