Russia can never make up its mind, artistically or politically, whether to turn east or west. St Petersburg, perhaps the most beautiful Classical city of all, with cathedrals domed in the approved western manner, has also, not far from Peter the Great's Nevsky Prospekt, a towering church that is nothing but a magnified version of St Basil's Cathedral on Moscow's Red Square. The brilliant range of colours on its many small domes are suggestive of oriental rugs, tapestries, or fabrics. This is the Cathedral on the Blood, marking the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.
On the whole Glazunov looked west. The earliest work on this CD is La mer of 1889; yet that was also the year he and Rimsky-Korsakov were much occupied with completion of Borodin's Prince Igor, in which the Polovtsian Dances are a glorification of eastern tribal vitality. Either way it is excellent to have a young Russian's anticipation of Debussy. If the Frenchman observed the English Channel from Eastbourne, one presumes Glazunov was scanning the grey waters that filled the Gulf of Finland. The many moods of that unpredictable element are well captured, none more effectively than the rising storm.
Listen -- La mer
(track 5, 6:28-8:01) © 2008 Warner Classics and Jazz
In the case of Salome it is probably best to shut one's eyes and look nowhere. On this occasion Strauss's 1905 shocker preceded by four years Glazunov's incidental music to a production of Wilde's play. Quite the worst part of the Strauss opera is the Dance of the Seven Veils. I do not now suggest substituting Glazunov for Strauss, but it is instructive to see how effectively Glazunov coped with the delicate situation. I dare not speculate how many veils had been shed by the lascivious princess in the first two minutes of her performance, as it is now the holy month of Ramadan in Cairo.
Listen -- Salome's Dance
(track 7, 0:00-1:49) © 2008 Warner Classics and Jazz
José Serebrier and this Scottish orchestra have staked quite a corner in Glazunov symphonies. This is the fifth they have recorded, and it proves a very worthwhile project. No 6 is the first symphony Glazunov wrote after reaching the age of thirty. It is a powerful piece, but has room for a playful Intermezzo as third movement.
Listen -- Intermezzo: Allegretto (Symphony No 6)
(track 3, 0:00-1:18) © 2008 Warner Classics and Jazz
The outer movements, though, propound cogent musical arguments, as in the opening Allegro appassionato.
Listen -- Allegro appassionato (Symphony No 6)
(track 1, 2:58-4:18) © 2008 Warner Classics and Jazz
On the evidence of this fine disc, one can but wish the team a successful conclusion to the complete series.
Copyright © 16 September 2008
Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt
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Glazunov: Symphony No 6 / La Mer / Salome - RSNO - Serebrier
2564 69627-0 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 66'48" 2008 Warner Classics and Jazz
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
José Serebrier, conductor
Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936):
Symphony No 6 in C minor Op 58 (Adagio - Allegro appassionato; Tema con variazioni; Intermezzo: Allegretto; Finale: Andante maestoso - Moderato maestoso - Scherzando - Allegro pesante - Allegro moderato)
La Mer, Op 28 - Fantasy in E
Introduction and Dance from Salome, Op 90 - Incidental music to the play by Oscar Wilde (Introduction; Salome's Dance)
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