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