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.
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
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),
(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).
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.
In his review of Glazunovs
6th symphony, Jonathan Woolf mentions "the more combustible
Fedoseyev whose Sixth isnt 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?