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Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Symphony No.6 in C minor, Op.58 (1896) [35:51]
The Sea - Fantasy for orchestra (1889) [15:22]
Introduction and Salome’s Dance to Oscar Wilde’s drama Salome Op. 90 (1908) [15:19]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/José Serebrier
rec. Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, June 2008
WARNER CLASSICS 256469627
[66:48] 
Experience Classicsonline


José Serebrier has been working his way slowly but methodically through the Glazunov Symphonies. The resultant recordings have been a real boon to the discography of the composer – sumptuously recorded, excellently played and interpretatively insightful.
 

The Fifth was coupled with The Seasons whilst this Sixth also sports La Mer, and the Introduction and Dance from Salome. No.7 was coupled with the Fourth (2564632362) and the Eighth with the suite from Raymonda (2564619392). The early symphonies are to come and they will complete a notable cycle.

The Sixth is the latest entrant and it proves as fine and dramatic a performance as one might have wished. Serebrier can marry febrile intensity with a real concern for orchestral unanimity in a way some Russian predecessors couldn’t manage and the outcome is intensely exciting but disciplined. The opening movement is notably well controlled, the brass well balanced – the low brass not overpowering as is tempting - and there’s good string weight. Fortunately the winds are not over-prominent but assume a natural perspective. All this attests to the hard work that has gone on between conductor, orchestra and the control booth. Serebrier’s approach is one of controlled and cumulative tension, one that pays court to Glazunov’s symphonic writing with skill and sensitivity; listen especially to the unfolding of the variations second movement, which is accomplished with real warmth. The wind choirs’ unanimity, the brassy interjections and the violins’ skirl are all propelled with energy and precision. The delightfully lissom scherzo is another virtue. Everywhere one feels Serebrier controlling things with vivid surety and in its linearity the performance is three minutes faster than Svetlanov’s recording, for instance. 

La Mer – or The Sea – is a rhapsodic fantasy written in 1889 and opens with tremendous immediacy. It’s full of delightful melodic strength, a tinge of Wagner, plenty of brass panache – from growling trombone to rat-a-tat trumpet. It’s true that there are generic elements here – the calmly reflective stasis included – but when it’s played as well as here you can enjoy a sumptuous quarter of an hour. Rimsky didn’t much like it but never mind. The Introduction and Salome’s Dance to Oscar Wilde’s drama Salome is rather more his kind of work. The Introduction lurches between blowsy melodrama and moving quietude but the Dance is a Rimsky-tinged piece of exotica that excites if not exactly entices. 

As for the Sixth whilst one would not wish to be without Svetlanov (SVET212618 – the whole cycle) in this symphony or Golovanov (EMI Great Conductors of the Century – 5751122) – some people dislike his Sixth but I don’t there are also Butt (ASV 904 – with Raymonda and Triumphal March), Otaka (BISCD1368 – coupled with the First) and Järvi (Bamberg Symphony – an excellent cycle on Orfeo but you’ll need to search it out as it’s not in print); as well as the more combustible Fedoseyev whose Sixth isn’t currently available but whose whole cycle needs to be reissued as a matter of urgency, as well the Russian State/Polyansky (CHAN10238 or Brilliant). At budget price there’s the Moscow SO/Anissimov (Naxos). 

Final paragraphs mean quick conclusions. This is another outstanding contribution from the Royal Scottish-Serebrier-Warner Classics team. When the cycle is completed we are going to have to reassess recommendations in the light of this executant excellence, conductorial acuity and fine recorded sound, and I suspect we are going to have this cycle there or thereabouts as a general front-runner. 

Jonathan Woolf 

Message received:

In his review of Glazunovs 6th symphony, Jonathan Woolf mentions "the more combustible Fedoseyev whose Sixth isn’t currently available but whose whole cycle needs to be reissued as a matter of urgency".

Actually, the whole Fedoseyev cycle can be bought from iTunes at an incredibly low price. For Swedish customers it's available at 54 Swedish crowns.
At todays rates, 54 crowns is around 7 dollars, 5 euros or 4.50 GB pounds. (There may of course be copyright rules that make it unavailable in some countries.)
Bargain of the year?

Yours,

Jan Arell
Gothenburg, Sweden


 


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