This is the first volume
in a cycle of the complete Glazunov
Quartets. He had a precocious success
with his First, written in 1882, written
shortly after the First Symphony, also
a success. The new cycle begins with
two Quartets that have always held a
toehold in the recorded repertory from
the days of the 78 onwards.
The Third was written
between 1886 and 1888 and is a four-movement
work that bears some distinct similarities
to a suite. The reason is that the opening
movement was written as an independent
piece called Chetverka and the
others took on cyclic form around it.
That opening Moderato certainly has
a hymnal generosity to it at a controlled
tempo. There are some fine opportunities
for unison writing and the profile is
both winning and lyrically charming.
The Interludium, rich, romantic, dense
is contrasted with the succeeding Alla
Mazurka in which Glazunov gives excellent
voicings and fillips to the violins
– as well as some elegant and elfin
writing in the pizzicato episode. It’s
not really earthy – more salon than
soil, this – but the cello drone does
impart a certain countrified vivacity
to the proceedings. The finale is delightfully
vibrant and light-hearted, with its
dance rhythms preserved almost intact.
It employs Russian, Polish and Czech
dance rhythms to warm effect, then takes
up a strong march rhythm and strides
towards a triumphant ending. Glazunov
was obviously taken by his own creation
as he made an orchestral piece out of
it called Slav Holiday.
The Fifth dates from
a decade later than the Third. It’s
a much more formal, less exultantly
loquacious work. Its concision takes
traditional form, indeed going so far
as to open with a fugue, but a fugue
that succeeds in conveying real expressive
nuance. The elegantly dancing Scherzo
has fine pizzicato moments for the cello
and courtly ones for the two violins.
The Utrecht take the Adagio (marked
con licenza) at a good flowing
tempo without endangering its plangent
potential. There’s nothing static or
self-regarding about this Adagio; though
it embraces the melancholy it strives
toward - and is imbued by - the light.
The Utrecht certainly catches the motorically
joyful muse of the finale with its echoes
of the Scherzo’s fleetness and the opening
movement’s fugal development.
in the Fifth from the Shostakovich Quartet
(on Olympia – if you can find it) and
from the excellent St Petersburg on
Delos, coupled with the Five Novelettes.
For older readers the Testament reissue
of the Hollywood’s classic recording
is coupled with works by Borodin and
Tchaikovsky. But in its elegant and
precise way the Utrecht have made a
fine start in their welcome cycle.