Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

ALEXANDER GLAZUNOV (1865-1936) Symphony No. 1 (1881) Violin Concerto (1903)*   Julia Krasko (violin) * Russian State SO/Valeri Polyansky CHANDOS CHAN 9751 [59.12]




I first became a Glazunov enthusiast as a result of hearing the violin concerto in a Decca recording (LP 1970s) of Jose Sivo. After that I pursued every bit of Glazunov I could trace. There is still a great deal more to hear but among the symphonies particular favourites of mine are numbers 5 and 8. The late saxophone concerto is also well worth tracking down.

The present rather fine disc is part of a steadily unrolling cycle. Numbers 4 and 5 came out very recently (I write in September 1999) and Number 2 plus the Coronation Cantata was issued a year ago. Given Polyansky's predilection for broader tempi I am particularly looking forward to the grandeur of his account of the Eighth Symphony.

The present disc gives us his 1881 symphony - the work of a prodigy. The premiere was conducted by Rimsky-Korsakov. It is Rimsky who is credited with having given a strong guiding hand and his influence and that of Balakirev is felt throughout the symphony. Glazunov was a fine colourist as his ballet The Seasons testifies. He had a special sympathy with the Kouchka and his dazzling completion of the Borodin 3rd Symphony is a far more accomplished work than some rather sniffy commentators infer. As for the first symphony the present performance makes for it one of the most successful arguments I have heard. The tempo is usually on the broad side as is often the case with Polyansky. Rozhdestvensky on Olympia has more vibrant pizzazz but the Russian melancholy is better conveyed by Polyansky and the RSSO. The recording, rather recessed but responding well to a volume boost, is the last word in refinement. Chandos have long put behind them the sometimes rather over-rich and congested sound accorded to the Bax symphonies.

The Violin Concerto is probably the market leader at present. Certainly it is close to the top of the league and it is more sympathetically coupled than many. The dancing horns of the opening bars did not at first seem to bode well. They were set so far back by comparison with other favourites. However the moment Juliet Krasko's deft and succulent-toned playing entered the proceedings the impression changes. This is a most vibrant and successful performance. There were times, especially during the flaming finale, where it seemed to me that Krasko was goading the orchestra into a new access of excitement. The orchestra and conductor seem to be bucked and jolted along. The result sets the pulse racing without destroying the poetry of this lovely piece relegated by ignorance to the ranks of the second or even third league concertos.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

Reviews carry sales links
but you can also purchase


Return to Index