It's not quite 'proper' to approve of Glazunov, especially
as he could have gone so far down the road of modernism during his
thirty years in the twentieth century. How chalk and cheese he is
compared to Stravinsky, but Rachmaninov overtook him in the popularity
stakes. Tchaikovsky had praised Glazunov, 'his talent is undeniable',
and took a keen interest in this third symphony; indeed their friendship
endured from their first encounter in October 1884 right until four
days before the older composer's death in 1893. At the time of this
third symphony Glazunov was doing all he could to break free from
the influence of the so-called Mighty Handful, the five nationalist
composers Borodin, Balakirev, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Mussorgsky,
though to judge by its scherzo, a vivaciously whizzing movement
reminiscent of Bordin's second symphony, he did not quite succeed.
Then of course there is the lyricism of Tchaikovsky in the pathos-laden
slow third movement with its Tristan-like, if belated, tribute to
Wagner who had died the year before. The outer movements do not
really hold a candle to these two inner ones, particularly the rather
prosaic finale, but Glazunov is a tunesmith of quality. I am not
at all certain that Tchaikovsky's advice that his most significant
weaknesses were 'some longevities and the lack of pauses' was justified.
True there is a distinct feeling that the Ballade is no more
than a filler here, despite the effort put into it by conductor
and players. The later date of its composition (1902) should imply
a maturer result, which is not quite what transpires in a work
which meanders and finally runs out of steam despite some vigorous
fanfares on the way.
Playing throughout the disc is exemplary, the recording quality
bright and full in the rich acoustics of the Swansea-located hall.
Otaka's exploration of these symphonies (No.2 is on BIS-CD-1308)
is a worthwhile exercise, despite serious competition from the
likes of Järvi and Polyansky on Chandos. It seems that the
great Hans Richter was justified in taking up the Glazunov cause
a century ago, but would that he had left a recording or two as