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Glazunov's response to such turmoil was to consolidate his position musically and hold fast. Though he left Russia in 1928 for the Schubert Centenary and did not return, he remained nominal director of the conservatoire till 1930, surviving Lenin and also Stalin's initial years.

Younger composers such as Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich rejected him; Glazunov stuck to the conservative values of good sense and sound learning.

Of the music's competence there is never a doubt, even if inspiration comes and goes. Yet Mendelssohn himself could hardly have improved on the start of the Scherzo in Symphony No 5, deftly conceived and deliciously scored [listen -- track 2, 0:00-0:59]. The slow movement has a searching eloquence and charm, leading to an energetic finale of bold panache [listen -- track 4, 0:00-1:00]. Symphony No 8 was the last that Glazunov completed. The outer movements of both have passages of contrapuntal virtuosity, but it is the Mesto slow movement, with its stormy start, that hints at the terrifying upheavals of 1905 [listen -- track 6, 0:00-1:00]. This is the most powerful passage in the two works, and some of its unease lingers in the following Allegro [listen -- track 7, 0:00-0:40]. The playing under Alexander Anissimov is as accomplished as the music. Where Glazunov is inclined to be bland, the orchestra gives him all the pep and punch it can; where he is engaged in delicate imaginative flights or a strenuous dialectic of cogent argument, the team is unstinting in commitment and support.

Copyright © 14 July 2001 Robert Anderson, London, UK







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