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Alexander Konstantinovich GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Violin Concerto, Op. 82 (1904) [20:20]
Concerto Ballata, Op. 108 (1931) [21:00]
Saxophone Concerto, Op. 109 (1936) [14:24]
Viktor Tretyakov (violin)
Grand Symphony Orchestra All-Union Radio and Central TV/Vladimir Fedoseyev (Violin Concerto)
Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
USSR State Academic Symphony Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov (Concert Ballata)
Lev Mikhailov (saxophone)
Ensemble of Soloists of the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra All-Union Radio and Central Television/Aleksandr Korneyev
rec. live, 27 May 1985 Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory (Violin Concerto); live, 1964 (Concerto Ballata); 1976 (Saxophone Concerto). ADD
Notes included
MELODIYA MELCD1002131 [55:46]

This disc is the latest in Melodiya’s stream of re-releases from the archives of Soviet recording. Two of the three are live recordings and all date from almost thirty years ago or more. All three are worthy performances with Rostropovich’s being outstanding.

The three concertos on this disc are all cast in a one-movement cyclical format. The Violin Concerto is one of the composer’s most popular works and has been recorded scores of times. Victor Tretiakov’s performance is rather restrained although he is forceful when needed. In the slow middle section his tone is somewhat sharp and he occasionally seems to lose interest. Things picks up in the work’s reprise and finale. Fedoseyev emphasizes the Tchaikovskian elements of the score, which is no disadvantage, and he gets a tremendous response from the Moscow Symphony Radio Orchestra.

The Concerto Ballata (in ballad style) is the least well-known of these three concertos. It was written for Casals after Glazunov had permanently settled in the West and again combines the three standard concerto movements into one. Here Schumann seems to be the presiding influence rather than Tchaikovsky. Rostropovich obviously enjoys the long melodic lines of this score and its gracious, almost, serene atmosphere. His playing is especially fine in the work’s slow section, evincing real poetry. Again this is a live recording, but while there is some distracting noise from the audience the sound is quite good considering its vintage.

Glazunov’s Saxophone Concerto is one of his last works. Here only strings are used to accompany the soloist and Glazunov manipulates the tonal contrasts with great skill. Lev Mikhailov was originally a well-known clarinetist, but took up the saxophone in mid-career and promoted the instrument’s acceptance in Russian classical music. His playing is most expressive and he brings out the various aspects of the piece without over-emphasis. Korneyev and the Moscow Symphony Radio players provide equally adroit accompaniment.

I should add that Tretiakov is the subject of one of Brilliant Classics celebratory boxes sets as also is Rostropovich who has had similar accolades paid by EMI Classics and Warner.

During the 1990s the much lamented Olympia issued a comparable Glazunov concerto anthology CD which included the same version of the Saxophone Concerto alongside the Piano Concerto No. 2 (Dmitri Alexeiev) and a different Violin Concerto (Vladimir Ponkin). That was OCD165 and has long been deleted.

Given the age of the recordings featured here the transfers are quite impressive. At present the Tretiakov recording is not otherwise generally available but there is another by Tretiakov on the Yedang Entertainment label. On the other hand the Rostropovich performance is available in several Rostropovich collections [see link]. The Mikhailov is also not currently available. Given these factors this disc is most likely to appeal to fans of the various soloists or to those building up their Glazunov collections.

William Kreindler