Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Les Ruses d'amour - ballet in one act, Op. 61 (1898) [50:56]
Romanian State Orchestra/Horia Andreescu
rec. November 1986, Iasi, Romania. DDD
Orchestral Works - Volume 19
NAXOS 8.572447 [50:56]
The Naxos series of Glazunov orchestral works reaches volume 19 with this disc. Composed by Glazunov in 1898 Ruses is also 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 The Seasons and Raymonda, and the ever popular Violin Concerto. 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 was 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 Pierina 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 is not 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 and in the Recitatif mimique the woodwind-infused music has a distinct bucolic feel. Melody after melody is released in the Sarabanda but the themes are typically unremarkable. One notices the childlike lyricism of the Danse des marionettes and Scenes IV and V are gentle and romantic. The movement Ballabile des paysans et des paysannes is 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 Fricassée brings the score to an exciting and energetic conclusion.
Enthusiasm and creditable playing. ... see Full Review
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 that impression.
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 oeuvre.
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 Raymonda.
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 than that.
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.