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Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Collection
[USSR State Symphony Orchestra]/Evgeni Svetlanov
SVET 27-32/18 [6 CDs: 75:58 + 75:12 + 64:14 + 71:43 + 62:56 + 56:31]

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CD 1
Overture No. 1 on three Greek themes in G minor, Op. 3 [15:06]
Overture No. 2 on Greek themes in D major, Op. 6 [16:35]
To the Memory of a Hero, Elegy, Op. 8 [15:57]
Lyrical Poem in D major, Op. 12 [12:10]
Stenka Razin, symphonic poem, Op. 13 [16:08]
CD 2
Characteristic Suite for large orchestra, Op. 9 [33:35]
Serenade No. 1, Op. 7 [4:11]
Serenade No. 2, Op.11 [3:40]
Two Pieces for orchestra, Op.14; Idyll in D major [11:12] Reverie Orientale [9:24]
Mazurka in G major, Op. 18 [7:46]
Characteristic Dance [2:40]
Volga Boatmen"s Song (1905) [2:46]
CD 3
Forest, fantasia for large symphony orchestra, Op. 19 [21:23]
Sea, fantasia for large symphony orchestra, Op. 28 [17:32]
Oriental Rhapsody for large symphony orchestra, Op.29 [24:18]
CD 4
Wedding Procession, Op. 21 [7:33]
Slavonic Festival, Op. 26 No. 4 [13:27]
Spring, musical picture for symphony orchestra, Op. 34 [11:14]
Triumphal March, Op. 40 [9:07]
Carnival, Op. 45 [9:33]
Solemn Procession in D major, Op. 50 [7:28]
From Darkness to Light, fantasia in C major, Op. 53 [13:18]
CD 5
Chopiniana, suite from F. Chopin"s works, Op. 46 (1892) [20:47]
Concert Waltz No. 1 in D major, Op. 47 [9:41]
Concert Waltz No. 2 in F major, Op. 51 [9:22]
Waltz from ballet "Raymonda", Op. 57 [5:25]
Waltz from "Ballet Suite", Op. 52 [5:49]
Polonaise from "Ballet Suite", Op. 52 [5:38]
Waltz from the ballet "Lady Soubrette", Op. 61 [6:12]
CD 6
Lady-soubrette - Ballet in one act, Op. 61 [71:43]
No orchestras or dates [1961-90] noted

 

As usual with Svetlanov re-releases we are in what Blues shouter Big Joe Turner would invariably call a ‘World of Trouble’. This relates to the provenance of these performances, which are loosely dated to between the years 1961-90. Furthermore I can’t find any reference to the orchestra(s) Svetlanov conducts in the entire box. I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert in the sub-stratum of the Svetlanov Discography but I think a few things are clear. These are all, so far as I can see, commercial recordings, and all are studio-made. Most are made with the USSR State, though he did record ballet with the Bolshoi – principally Raymonda which is on a companion set. Lady Soubrette which occupies the whole of disc six is currently also available on Melodiya MELCD1000020; the orchestral fantasies The Sea, Forest and the Oriental Rhapsody (CD 3) are also to be found on Melodiya MELCD1000156. I believe The Sea is also on SVSEA003 where it’s coupled with Debussy and Ciurlionis’s works of the same title. If you want the Ballet Suite and the Characteristic Suite you can find them on Melodiya MELCD1000160. The Waltzes are on a two CD compilation disc MELCD1001319.

So far so duplicatory. What’s really not at stake is the quality of the performances. The First Overture on Greek Themes sounds as much Hassidic as Ionian to these ears whereas the second is rather more robust and amusing. The noble memorial that is To the Memory of a Hero is richly carved in this performance. The Lyrical Poem is pliant and full of bel canto lyricism. Svetlanov could do Stenka Razin as well as anyone – it’s powerful and glowering in his hands and shimmers with a painterly haze. I think you’d have to be deep into Glazunov’s pocket to get too worked up by the Characteristic Suite which is a generic pot-boiler though the Pastorale has a real charm. The second of the Op.14 Pieces for Orchestra is a Reverie Orientale and it displays Rimsky saturation, which Svetlanov brings out in all its salient ripeness. Don’t overlook the Op.18 Mazurka – it’s a good example of Glazunov’s handling of established forms in a vivacious way.

The Forest is a fantasia for orchestra, lush in a Rimsky way once more, and with forestry winds to the fore. The brass is forceful, the birdcalls evocatively insistent and there’s plenty of vegetative warmth in the splendid orchestration. A harp unleashes The Sea, a work of suitable turbulence and alternating becalmed tension well deserving a concert hearing. The Oriental Rhapsody is an altogether more opulent affair, exotic, with sweeping dance patterns, percussive interjections, and the sultry eyed stare of the East.

The fourth disc is a collection of medium sized pieces. The Wedding Procession is Brahmsian – one thinks of the Haydn Variations – and better than the pleasantly unmemorable Slavonic Fantasy. Spring is verdant and From Darkness to Light by far the most serious minded of them – ranging from unease to refined fulfilment. Chopiniana is a trusty favourite, trustily dispatched; crisply too. The series of concert waltzes attest to his balletic abilities and ever polished assurance. The final disc gives us Lady-Soubrette which is based on paintings by Watteau. Neo-baroque vies with Dvořák for some of the time, though there’s a Handel-Beecham feel to, say, the Sarabande in Scene I. The dances are especially captivating – try the Short Peasant’s Dance in Scene XI for instance.

The best of the music is contained in disc 3, the strong fantasia/rhapsody triptych. But all the music is diverting even when inessential and none too serious. As long as the question of attribution is resolved satisfaction is guaranteed. For Glazunov new comers though I think these six discs – only available in a box - should be selectively filleted elsewhere.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 

 


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