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Louis GLASS (1864-1936)
Orchestral Works Vol. 4.
Symphony No. 1 (1894) [43.38]
Symphony No. 5 Sinfonia Svastica (1919-20) [41.37]
Plovdiv PO/Nayden Todorov
rec Concert Hall of the Plovdiv Philharmonic, Feb 2001 (No. 1); No. 5 (May 2001)
[2 CDs: 85.17]

Currently no on-line retailer seems to stock this and the Danacord Records link is bringing up Tiscali

With this disc Danacord , with Todorov and the Plovdiv Orchestra, have recorded the complete symphonies of Louis Glass. The other discs are CD541 (No. 4), 542 (Nos 3 and 6), CD 453 (Nos 2 and Fantasia). Each disc has been reviewed on this site.

This release, aside from being the culmination of the symphony part of the project (I understand that there will be other Glass orchestral discs), is important because it represents the premiere recording in any format of the First Symphony and also the arrival of the third commercial version of the Fifth Symphony.

Strengths and weaknesses are on display in this version of the Fifth. Todorov takes the Rest and Shadows movements (II and III) at an idyllic heart-slowing rate. This does not spell boredom. Todorov and the Bulgarians do this very well but this must be at the extreme end of the interpretative scale. Any slower and the work would disintegrate. As it is Todorov probably handles this movement better than any of the other versions I have heard including the Downes, Segerstam and Schønwandt off-air versions never mind the Peter Marchbank/SABCSO (Marco Polo) or the Launy Grøndahl/DRSO on a mono Danacord collection of four late Romantic Danish symphonies. Where he is less at an advantage is in the first movement where he really needs more snap and tension. The reverb in the rich surroundings of the Plovdiv Phil also places a soft focus accent on the proceedings which works well in the Delian warmth that sets high summer creeping in the veins but does less justice in the climactic dynamism of the Daily Work first movement. The horns which should call out in well defined bell-upended ecstasy at 9.33 (tk 1) can only just be made out. They should register with all the abandon of the horn choir in Nielsen 5. This takes a little shine off the recording but my how well Todorov checks, slows and grades the pace in the slow movement. Imagine what he would make of the slow movement of Rachmaninov's Second Symphony. In the Nimrod section of Enigma he might even out-Bernstein Bernstein in his last recording of the Elgar work. He pulls off a similar success in the Dawn Finale. Glass's style can best be thought of in terms of Tchaikovsky (a composer also much echoed in the First Symphony and Violin Concerto of Haakon Børresen), Elgar (some uncanny echoes) and Delius and his melodic ideas in the Fifth are of high intrinsic value.

By the way, the title of the Fifth Symphony has nothing to do with Hitler. It relates to the Indian symbol for renewal and life. This differs from the Nazi totem in that the 'legs' point in the opposite direction. This is the same symbol once to be seen on the spines of the books of Rudyard Kipling.

The First Symphony is the work of a thirty year old composer writing two years after Nielsen's First Symphony. It opens casually like an operatic prelude. The exemplars are, on this evidence, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner and Schubert. The Bruckner echoes are familiar also from the Third and Fourth Symphonies. Some delicious Tchaikovskian woodwind work is to be heard in the first movement and even suggesting a parallel with Glazunov. A grave Anitra-style dance in the andante sostenuto gives way to a perky Brucknerian scherzo with the brass dance patterned uncannily like those of the modest Austrian master. The whole work is neatly if gingerly handled by the Bulgarians.

A unique coupling of two late romantic symphonies which no lover of the Scandinavian late romantics can afford to be without.

If there are funds on hand I do hope that Jesper Buhl's Danacord will record the symphonies of Herman Sandby next and who better than Todorov and the Plovdiv boys and girls to tackle that cycle.

Rob Barnett

If in difficulty by all means contact the UK distributors:
Discovery Records Ltd
01672 563931
01672 563934
or Danacord via their website at

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