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Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Symphony No.8 in E flat major, Op.83 (1905-06) [41:20]
Wedding Procession, Op. 21 (1890) [6:55]
Finnish Fantasia in C major Op. 88 (1909) [12:17]
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Boris Khaikin (Symphony)
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Gauk (Wedding Procession), Yevgeny Svetlanov (Finnish Fantasia)
rec. 1953 (Symphony), 1962 (Wedding Procession, Finnish Fantasia)

It wasn’t just Golovanov. At the same time that that colossus was recording Glazunov symphonies in Moscow, Boris Khaikin was making his more modest contribution in Leningrad. And whilst it’s true that, in some ways, Golovanov begat Samosud and Svetlanov in the romantic repertoire, Khaikin – whilst hardly entirely escaping Golovanov’s influence - could offer virtues of his own. That’s undoubtedly the case when considering the Eighth Symphony recording of 1953, a powerful mono inscription, that shows powers of drive and drama to equal the best.

With a very characterful clarinet principal and strong horns the orchestral patina is distinctive and athletic. There’s a sense of verve and excitement throughout Khaikin’s reading – ignore the bad side join or edit at 4:55 in the first movement, it’s ingrained in the Melodiya original – and Khaikin shows that rapid tempi do not necessarily equate to passionate conviction (memo to Järvi and his Bavarian forces who are outrageously and unsuccessfully fast and furious). Instead, despite the cramped sonics, Khaikin is full of ardour, and unlike Svetlanov later on – who generally takes similar tempi – prefers not to brood in the slow movement, emphasising instead sensitive phrasing and unexaggerated directness. With lively avian winds in the scherzo – the triangle is perfectly audible thankfully – the music is itself borne on wings and the finale remains triumphant but not overbearing as it can in other, lesser directorial hands.

Alexander Gauk directs his Moscow forces in the Wedding Procession, a suitably resplendent affair from 1962 and inevitably in much improved sonics, with piercing high winds and Soviet brass to the fore. Melodiya coupled this with Svetlanov’s Finnish Fantasia in C major with the same orchestra. He has rather more interpretative and balancing issues to attend to than had Gauk, and he ensures the success of the work via canny transitions and proto-Rachmaninovian phrasing. This last recording later turned up on the SVET label (SV89-90) to advantage but it’s fine to hear it in the context of this all-Moscow Glazunov disc of 1962.

But the main event, inevitably, is the Khaikin and it emerges as well as one could possibly expect in this restoration, one that shows that a Khaikin Glazunov cycle would have really been something to hear.

Jonathan Woolf

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