The Naxos series of Glazunov orchestral works reaches volume 19
with this disc. Composed by Glazunov in 1898 Ruses
known as The Trial of Damis
. This disc is a reissue originally
released on Marco Polo 8.220485.
Glazunov was a precocious student of Rimsky-Korsakov during the
artistic ferment of the revival of Russian musical nationalism.
Composed when he was a sixteen year old Glazunov gained sudden
acclaim with the success of his Symphony No. 1
. The audience
would have been shocked when Glazunov took his bow at the premiere
wearing his school uniform. International recognition was established
with his symphonies, the tone poem Stenka Razin
, the ballets
, and the ever popular Violin
He was still composing music in the manner
of Rimsky, Anton Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky. His works soon became
marginalised having failed to compete with the growing enthusiasm
for progressive composers such as Schoenberg, Berg, Stravinsky
and his own pupils Prokofiev and Shostakovich. After a century
or so we should now be able to reassess Glazunov’s music for its
innate qualities rather than be reference to the dynamic of the
era in which it was written.
The première of the ballet Les Ruses d'amour
given in the small hall of the Hermitage Theatre, St. Petersburg
in 1900. Marius Petipa provided the choreography. The leading
dancers were the Italian prima ballerina assoluta
Legnani and her Russian partner Pavel Gerdt. Briefly the story
of Les Ruses d'amour
centres on the role Isabella who is
the daughter of a titled Lady. Isabella pretends to be a maid
in a bid to test that the love of her fiancé the Marquis Damis
is true and not driven simply by her wealth and status.
The popularity of Les Ruses d'amour
has certainly not endured
to the same degree as The Seasons
and the longer Raymonda
ballets that have remained on the fringes of the repertoire.
Reasonably appealing, the music of Ruses d'amour
as recognisable as Glazunov’s other ballets. The composer has
not managed to achieve the same melodically memorable quality.
Showing a convincing enthusiasm the Romanian State Orchestra under
Horia Andreescu provide creditable playing. I enjoyed the gentle
and swaying lyricism of the Introduction and Scene I
in the Recitatif mimique
the woodwind-infused music has
a distinct bucolic feel. Melody after melody is released in the
but the themes are typically unremarkable. One
notices the childlike lyricism of the Danse des marionettes
and Scenes IV
are gentle and romantic.
The movement Ballabile des paysans et des paysannes
infectious and energetic. I was struck by the soft and tender
love music of Grand pas des fiancés
which is sugar-coated
with a gorgeous line for solo violin and cello. The engaging La
brings the score to an exciting and energetic conclusion.
Rob Maynard has also listened to this recording
When I reviewed the previous volume - number 18 - in this continuing
Naxos series devoted to Glazunov’s music, I suggested that there
was a certain sense of approaching the bottom of the proverbial
barrel and giving it a light scraping. At first glance, you
might assume that this newly released disc tends to confirm
In the first place, the series has become increasingly sporadic,
giving at least the impression that Naxos might have been losing
interest. After the release of the first four volumes in 1996,
two more appeared in 1997 and three more each year between 1998
and 2000. But after that there was just a single release in
2001, one more in 2003 and then a gap of six years before volume
18 appeared in 2009.
The fact too that, far from commissioning a new recording as
is their usual practice, Naxos have utilised one that has been
languishing in somebody’s archives for well over twenty years,
might lead a casual observer to suspect that here we have a
project that is running out of steam.
But, rather to my surprise, this turned out to be one of the
series’ more enjoyable excursions along the by-ways of Glazunov’s
The story behind the rarely-staged ballet is one of two young
aristocrats who have been betrothed by their families without
ever seeing each other. The girl, Isabella, plans to test her
fiancé Damis secretly to see if he would still love her if he
thought she were merely a commoner. She therefore disguises
herself as a maidservant and, by the end of the ballet, is delighted
to find him prepared to give up the planned wealthy marriage
in order to run away with a supposed servant girl for the sake
of True Love. In that pre-feminist era, it doesn’t seem to have
occurred to her that it arguably proves that he’s a deceitful
rat who’s prepared to abandon his sworn fiancée for a bit of
cheap sexual gratification.
That brief outline explains the confusing variety of names under
which Glazunov’s op.61 may be found: Les ruses d’amour (“Love’s
tricks”), Lady soubrette or The trial of Damis.
Thus, if you bought Evgeni Svetlanov’s Glazunov compilation
that I reviewed a few months ago (see
here) you will already own Lady soubrette and so
need to be aware that you would be duplicating your purchase
– not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that! –
with this new release of Les ruses d’amour.
The score is certainly a very appealing one. On the one hand,
Glazunov makes use of strong elements of pastiche, based on
musical forms and even some specific scores from the 17th
and 18th centuries. But he combines that, highly
successfully, with the typically Russian rhythmic vigour and
lyrical Romantic sweep that had characterised his 1898 ballet
Andreescu is, in general, a somewhat self-effacing interpreter
who is disinclined to overplay those moments of musical ardour
to which Svetlanov, for instance, gives more than full rein.
The Russian conductor’s approach is, in fact, consistently the
more theatrical one – but I know that there are some who find
his usual heart-on-sleeve manner rather too much when heard
away from the context of the Front Stalls. Andreescu is clearly
a very accomplished musician (for more on his background see
here) whose way with the music is an equally enjoyable one.
He is well supported by his skilled orchestra whose obvious
abilities suggest that while the odious Ceausescus may have
crippled many other aspects of Romanian life in the last decade
of their rule, musical standards in the 1980s remained high.
The sound engineers have also done a fine, discrete job and
the score’s many delicate moments are rendered quite delightfully:
Svetlanov, by contrast, is recorded in a more reverberant acoustic
that suits his Technicolor interpretation.
Completists will want volume 19 of this Naxos series simply
because they already have volumes 1-18 on their shelves. Ballet
enthusiasts will enjoy hearing a score that has sometimes in
the past been excerpted but rarely heard in full. But this tuneful
music – very competitively priced – deserves a wider currency
Is it too much, by the way, to hope that some enterprising ballet
company might stage Les ruses d’amour one day soon? It
would make a great double bill, I venture to suggest, with Glazunov’s
tuneful and inventive ballet score The Seasons.