Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:


Symphony No. 4 (1911)
Plovdiv PO/Nayden Todorov
rec Plovdiv, Oct 1999


I rate Louis Glass very highly indeed. On my, admittedly slender, knowledge of his output his masterwork is the Symphony No. 5 Sinfonia Svastika (nothing to do with Nazi-ism but with the Indian symbol for eternal life - you used to see it on the spine of novels by Kipling). Svastika still awaits an ideal recording but the Marco Polo recording (8.223486 - Peter Marchbank conducting the SABC orchestra) is passable as also is the Danacord historical recording (Danish RSO/Launy Grøndahl Danacord DACO139-140 mono) coupled with three other late romantic Danish symphonies. There are some excellent radio tapes in private circulation including the Danish RSO conducted by Michael Schønwandt (24 May 1982) and slightly cooler performance with the same orchestra conducted by Leif Segerstam (EBU broadcast 8 November 1990).

The voltage of the other symphonies is not as high as in No. 5. No. 3 The Woodland has been well done by both the BBCPO/Edward Downes (BBC radio 39 November 1990) and Alf Sjoen conducting the Aalborg By-Orkester (early 1970s?). No. 4 has been superbly done by Jorma Panula with the Danish RSO during the 1980s. No. 6 Skjoldungeaet is a tougher nut available on the same Marco Polo as No. 5 but also conducted by Karol Stryja with the Odense By-Orkester.

Glass has had his revivals in Denmark as mentioned above. The ballet Artemis (highly controversial more because of its erotic subject than its tribute to The Rite of Spring) awaits a first performance in modern times. The Symphonies 1 and 2 are totally unknown quantities. From radio tapes I am aware of attractive works in shape of the Romantisk Overtyr (Aalborg By-Orkester/Alf Sjoen) and the Hill of the Elves (Odense By-Orkester/Ole Schmidt) and Summer Life suites (Sonderjylland SO/Borge Wagner).

The Fourth Symphony has some of the same quality as No. 5 without quite the exuberance and profusion of memorable ideas to be found in the Fifth. It is a work of Lisztian ambit. Did Glass have the Faust Symphony in mind, I wonder? Something of the Liszt work's Mephistophelean 'sleight of hand' hangs over at least the first movement. Given its scale you might have wondered if Bruckner was in evidence. Nothing of the sort. The massive 20 minute first movement has a 'wopping' tune (12.22) but, for a change, Glass does little to develop it, instead embellishing it in styles carrying somewhat of Tchaikovsky and Nielsen (Helios). There is magic in the second movement including the beautifully spun gentle (Rachmaninovian) string theme in the second movement underscored by the harp at 4.36. The inspiration in the Adagio creaks and flickers and at just over 17 minutes its charm is over-stretched. The Allegro appassionato bursts with the brusque energy of the finale of Rachmaninov Symphony No 1.

Theosophical dreamer that he was Glass might well be bracketed with Bantock in England and with Adolph Biarent in Belgium. However the only work in which he seems to have lapsed into Scriabinism was the Fantasy for piano and orchestra (extremely well done on Danish Radio by Nina Gade and the Sonderjyllands SO conducted by Jean-Pierre Wallez). I am tempted to claim Glass as the greatest of the three because of his Fifth Symphony but Bantock's Omar Khayyam places him at least on a par with Glass.

The orchestra is accomplished but in a work such as this I look for an element of euphoria which came most of the time but which was tenuous in the last two movements. This is an epic work and parts of it need a commitment which sparkled in the first two movements but which fell away at the end.

The hall has a long and lively echo decay which helped the work considerably. Make no mistake this is an enjoyable piece of romantica and you will be missing out if you pass it by. It is, for example, superior to the early Alfven or Bendix symphonies or Stenhammar's First.

Promisingly, this CD is labelled 'Louis Glass Vol 1'. I am hopeful about hearing the first two Glass symphonies for the first time and that the orchestra and conductor are given time to get under the skin of the work that deserves a white hot performance - the Fifth Symphony. A glorious life experience in store.

Danacord hopes that Symphonies 3 and 6 by Louis Glass will be out just a few days before Christmas and that Glass's Symphony no 2 will be an early February 2001 release.

Rob Barnett

If in difficulty by all means contact the UK distributors:

Discovery Records Ltd
phone 01672 563931
fax 01672 563934
or Danacord via their website at

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