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Les Vendredis
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865 - 1936)
Novelettes (5) Op 15 (1886) [27.37]
Nicolai ARTIBOUCHEFF (1858 - 1937)
Serenade (1899) [3.57]
Maximilien d’OSTEN-SACKEN (18?? - 1920?)
Berceuse (1899) [2.38]
Anatole LIADOV (1855 - 1914)
Mazurka (1899) [2.47]
Sarabande (1899) [2.51]
Felix BLUMENFELD (1963 - 1931)
Sarabande (1899) [4.25]
Nikolai SOKOLOW (1858 - 1922)
Polka (1899) [5.01]
Mazurka (1899) [1.37]
Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844 - 1908)
Allegro (1899) [7.49]
Alexander BORODIN (1833 - 1887)
Scherzo (1882) [9.46]
Alexander KOPYLOV (1854 - 1911)
Polka (1899) [2.45]
Vertavo String Quartet: Øyvor Volle, Berit Cardas, vv; Henninge Landaas, vla; Bjørg Værnes, vc;
Recorded in Sofienberg Kirche, Oslo, Norway, 17 September 2003.
Notes in English, Deutsch, Français.
SIMAX CLASSICS PSC 1178 [71.21]


Comparison Recordings

Glazunov: Novelettes, Quartet #5. St. Petersburg String Quartet Delos 3262

This disk is entitled "The Fridays" because the Russian music publisher Belyayev used to host Friday evening musicales where these composers and their friends were invited to play their compositions for mutual entertainment. In 1899 Belyayev’s Russian music publishing firm - he had a branch office in Leipzig to serve the European market and hence also to secure European copyrights - published a collection (entitled "Les Vendredis") of the original works written for and premiered at these musicales.

The two selections of genuine music on this disk are the Glazunov Novelettes, which rank among his best works, and the Borodin Scherzo which ended up in Borodin’s "unfinished" Third Symphony thanks to having been orchestrated by Glazunov. In the case of the Borodin, the symphonic form is superior, this quartet version seeming overly long and of monotonous texture.

By comparison, the other works are surprisingly vapid; in spite of the skill and attention lavished on them by the performers, it is difficult to remember having heard them. ... What, even the Rimsky-Korsakov? Yes, even the Rimsky-Korsakov!

A non-Norwegian such as myself might need to be informed that the four names of the quartet members listed above all refer to persons of the female gender, this being accomplished by means of the cover photograph showing the four women smiling winsomely and clinking champagne glasses. The photo sets us in a party mood for listening, but ennui sets in quickly. You stay listening to get to the Glazunov which finishes out the concert with some — very — real music. The "Novelettes" are a suite of five pieces for string quartet in various national styles, not dissimilar to Couperin’s "Les Nations," and are very colourful, inventive, and entertaining.

Comparing this recording of the Novelettes with that by the St. Petersburg group, the Norwegians achieve a more dramatic texture and more bounce, at times actually suggesting a peasant dance by Halvorsen or Grieg. The St. Petersburgers achieve more grace, more dignity, and more Russian sensualism; the coupling on that disk is superior, the Fifth Quartet of Glazunov is one of his finest works. Both groups play with exemplary tone, ensemble, and musicianship, and both receive excellent recording. But the historical interest inherent in the "Vendredis" selections is not negligible, some of the music being by composers otherwise not represented on disk. How adventuresome for adventure’s sake are you?

The Hollywood String Quartet also did a fine recording of the Novelettes available on a monophonic Testament CD. This work by Glazunov is so good that two recordings of it in your collection may not be an excess.

Paul Shoemaker



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