Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Symphony No. 6 in C minor, Op. 58 (1896) [36:58]
Raymonda - extracts [31:53]
Triumphal March, Op. 40 (1893) [7:50]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Yondani Butt
London Symphony Orchestra/Yondani Butt (March)
rec. London, 1987. DDD
REGIS RRC 1359 [76:27]

This collection derives from ASV Sanctuary CDDCA904. It is part of an incomplete Glazunov Symphony cycle of which only numbers 3 (CDDCA903), 4, 5 (CDDCA1051) and 6 were achieved before ASV sank from sight. Part of the Sanctuary Group, the label has now been acquired by Universal. The recordings – the work of Brian Culverhouse - are big, burly and brightly coloured, qualities far from inappropriate to the music.

This Sixth Symphony is a very strong contender. Butt manages to build and sustain tension and expectation in the first of the four movements which suggests sunlight gradually asserting itself over a misty dawn – optimism through gloom. Glazunov does not stint on grandiloquence. There’s a delicate and graceful Intermezzo – Allegretto betraying Glazunov’s ballet credentials but this time he omits his usual Scherzo. A black-hearted ‘call-to-action’ opens the finale which has splendid ‘grunt’. The accelerated swaying forward-rush seems a little reminiscent of the finale of Rachmaninov’s First Symphony.

Raymonda is second only to The Seasons among Glazunov’s ballets. It has survived in suite form on disc though there are a few versions of the full ballet. Butt and the RPO play the ten movements in style. This even extends to a suitably vibrato-rich ‘Soviet’ trumpet solo in Scene. The harp is much in evidence. Glazunov keep his eye on the Tchaikovsky of the three great ballets as his exemplar. He even keeps some Arabian spice and Borodin flavouring in reserve for the Dance of the Arabian Boys. While this score lacks the spark found consistently in The Seasons it has its moments, is often pleasing and certainly stands several rungs above the usual vapid ballet fluff.

The Triumphal March was written with an ad lib role for chorus. No doubt the choir was in place for the work’s 1893 Chicago premiere as part of the celebrations of the quatercentenary of Columbus's discovery of America. Perhaps we will hear it in that form one day but not here. Even so its portentous pages make a thunderously unbuttoned impact. It knocks into a cocked hat similar attempts by the likes of Victor Herbert for example in his American Fantasia. John Brown’s Body is woven with candid directness into the fabric of the Glazunov march which is full of typical touches. Yevgeny Svetlanov’s intense yet coarser sounding version can be heard in one of those massive SVET boxes and also in the Svetlanov orchestral volume in the Brilliant Classics ‘Russian Archives’ series. Butt gives it the maximum calorie treatment.

If you would like to sample the Glazunov orchestral music then this is a good place to start. A better place is Serebrier’s astonishingly good recording of the Fourth Symphony on Warner Classics but that is a premium priced product. This is at bargain price.

Rob Barnett

If you would like to sample the Glazunov orchestral music then this is a good place to start your journey.