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Alexander Konstantinovich GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Triumphal March, Op. 40 (1892) [9’46]. Serenades - No. 1 in A, Op. 7 (1883) [4’02]; No. 2 in F, Op. 11 (1884) [3’48]. Overtures on Greek Themes (1881-84) – No. 1 in G minor, Op. 3 [14’46]; No. 2 in D, Op. 6 [18’48].
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Ziva.
Rec. Mosfilm Studios, Moscow, Russia, in February 2000. DDD
Orchestral Works: Volume 17.
NAXOS 8.555048 [70’33]


In typical fashion, here is Naxos doggedly working its way through a composer’s entire output come what may. In some ways it made me feel nostalgic, as one of my first ever MusicWeb reviews was of one of this series, and included the Sixth Symphony ( No symphony here to give this issue substance, just a selection of eminently approachable and sometimes downright fun pieces.

The principal material of the Triumphal March of 1892 will, I almost guarantee, be instantly recognisable, for here is ‘John Brown’s Body’. This tune makes an appearance because the work was intended for the Chicago Exhibition with a full title of, ‘Triumphal March on the Occasion of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago 1893’. Under Ziva’s baton the strings sound richly emotional. A pity the brass can sound a bit brass-band-ish, but the glittering scoring of much of the work more than compensates for this. The idea of book-ending this release with two engaging pieces of froth is most appealing.

The disc ends, then, with Chopiniana of 1892, a set of orchestrations of some of Chopin’s piano pieces. One of the most famous, the A major Polonaise, opens the set. Articulation here is crisp (but the tenuto at the beginning of the second bar sounds strangely unnatural). The second movement (F major Nocturne from Chopin’s Op. 12) really does sound like something Besses-o’-the-Barn might revel in, although the turbulent middle section is well realised. Actually, the highlight is the third movement (Mazurka in C sharp minor, Op. 50 No. 3), suave and seductive. The achievement of the final movement (Tarantella in A flat, Op. 43) is to make Chopin sound intensely Russian through and through. Well worth hearing for the curiosity value (this suite later formed the basis of Les Sylphides).

The pieces in between deserve the occasional airing, and it is nice that they make daylight here. The Serenade No. 1, Op. 7 is very jolly, with decidedly Spanish influences and even some passages which could easily have escaped from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. The second Serenade contains much delicacy and lyricism. The two Overtures on Greek Themes (three themes each) again offer rewards in their own way. The first seems once more influenced by Rimsky-Korsakov (this performance is in danger of grinding to a halt at one point, though); the second, dedicated to Balakirev, has a more concentrated atmosphere. This performance of the latter exudes a certain belief in this music, and in this case it needs it, for the ‘march’ around eleven minutes in is, how can I put it, low on inspiration. The delightful, flute-dominated scoring about three minutes later more than makes up for it, however.

Dips in creative inspiration apart, this is a very enjoyable disc. Completists will not be disappointed, and neither will anyone wanting the evergreen Chopin orchestrations.

Colin Clarke

see also review by Michael Cookson


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