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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glazunov's symphonies, seductively performed, and at a seductive price!,
This review is from: Glazunov: Symphonies/Ballet Suites/Cantatas/Violin Concerto (Audio CD)Lovers of Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and early Tchaikovsky, one should waste no time in snapping up this astonishing bargain box. Glazunov lived to see himself considered an anachronism by enfants terribles like Prokofiev and Stravinsky. Nevertheless, despite the "wisdom" of received opinion, he DID grow as a composer. In the first movement of No.6, one hears harmonic progressions that became characteristic of the young Scriabin. No.8, perhaps his greatest symphony, has a great deal of the kind of pomp and angst one associates with Elgar.
Glazunov's symphonies have enjoyed a revival in the last 15 years. Collectors can choose among complete digital sets by Anissimov, Otaka and the present one by Polyansky. As of this date, Serebrier is about halfway through his series, and is getting very positive reviews. Svetlanov's series was briefly available on LP, and from internet scuttlebutt, I gather that Fedoseyev completed his too.
This set by Valeri Polyansky and the Russian State Symphony Orchestra is unquestionably the biggest bargain of the lot, but would be among the top picks at ANY price. Even Anissimov's series on NAXOS sells for more, and, although the Moscow Symphony is a first-rate orchestra, the performances are capable but routine. Polyansky's set costs about as much as two of Serebrier's put together. Even Otaka's bargain-priced box sells for more, but is shorn of the valuable fillers the discs had in their single CD releases.
The amazingly low price of this BRILLIANT set would count for nothing if the performances weren't so terrific. Polyansky's tempi are usually brisker than Anissimov's, although not always. The opening of No.1 is actually slower, adding Brahmsian breadth, yet it feels authentically Russian. (FYI, from an examination of timings, it looks like Serebrier's tempi are only slightly slower or quicker than Polyansky's, with the exception of slow movements, where Serebrier is sometimes MUCH broader.)
In Glazunov, Polyansky reveals himself as a master of the carefully built long climax. He never gives too much too soon, controlling himself and the orchestra, knowing when to back off in order to return with renewed intensity again and again. This is NOT to say that he is subdued--these vivid performances alternately caress, entice, generate sparks, and thunder--always at the right moment.
His rubato is sensuous and expressive. It does not draw attention to itself--it is not "posed for the camera"--and yet, the listener's sensibilities are ravished without knowing why. Music like this can easily degenerate into mere sound bathing. Polyansky never relaxes his grip on the structure, and points it in the right direction with riveting effect.
The Russian State Symphony Orchestra is a superb instrumental body. Gone are the days of Russian orchestras with nasal woodwinds, and saxophone-like horns. CHANDOS' sound is voluptuous--rich yet bright, full yet transparent--even the low bass has definition. There is also just enough hall ambience to surround the orchestra with a tingling shimmer without a hint of opacity. It's the aural equivalent of laying back in tsarist luxuriousness on a cushioned red velvet divan trimmed with gold braid and tassels, yet the effect is never suffocating or heavy.
Disappointingly, Polyansky didn't record No.7--that gap is plugged here, oddly, with a performance from the complete set by Otaka and the BBC Symphony of Wales! Luckily, it is excellent, and certainly more lissome than Anissimov. Compared to the RSSO, the strings are leaner, the brass, a little darker, and there is less hall ambiance. Why wasn't Polyansky's series completed? Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during the dealings among BRILLIANT, CHANDOS and BIS! How BRILLIANT gets labels to cooperate like this, I can't imagine, especially in this case, where Otaka's and Polyansky's competing bargain boxes were re-issued almost simultaneously. Let's be grateful to all concerned for this beneficial compromise!
Adding to the outrageous attractiveness of Polyansky's set are generous fillers--foremost is an excellent performance of the Violin Concerto. Other items are a suite from the ballet "Raymonda" (with Yondani Butt and the London Symphony Orchestra), two rare cantatas, and various short works. The chorus and the singers are good, although soprano Olga Lutsiv-Ternovskaya sometimes has a little trouble negotiating the upper reaches of the unexpectedly somewhat Italianate coloratura writing on CD#2, track 10, beginning at about 2:45.
The only thing that would have made this set even more attractive would have been the inclusion of Yudin's orchestration of the surviving fragment of No.9. The solution is to buy Anissimov's Symphony No.3, which is coupled with this fragment.
Even if one intends to wait two or three years and see how Serebrier's series turns out, this excellent set is available NOW, and at this price, there's no reason to hesitate! Go for it!
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Opportunity To Broaden Your Horizons. Enchanting.,
This review is from: Glazunov: Symphonies/Ballet Suites/Cantatas/Violin Concerto (Audio CD)You might disagree with my use of the word broaden, above, but truth is you can only tolerate Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto so many dozens of times before you yearn for something a little different. Someone Mendelssohnian perhaps, but going off in a different direction, perhaps.
Glazunov, composer of The Seasons, teacher of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, nemesis of Rachmaninov. He deserves some personal attention, and at budget price for the complete symphonies in splendid Chandos/Bis production values, why hesitate, especially when so many extras are included?
Basically, he seems to be an amalgam of Rimsky-Borodin with Schumann-Mendelssohn. Sound good? It is. So what if it wasn't avant-garde at the time; we live in our time where all classical music is past and out of fashion, so why not celebrate the gorgeous orchestration and melodic facility of these composers posterity wishes to judge second rate? Beethoven may be the greatest of composers, but one can't live on Beethoven alone. Right?
There may be better sets of the Glazunov, but this Brilliant collection has an irresistible price. Lovely Russian stuff on the borders of the European and Asiatic traditions. A very gratifying investment.
P.S. Just starting the Coronation Cantata and the music is pure enchantment.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars russian romance,
This review is from: Glazunov: Symphonies/Ballet Suites/Cantatas/Violin Concerto (Audio CD)With 7 discs packed with the most lovely music this is superb value for money. Originally a Chandos recording the Digital recording top quality is fabulous. It's only a shame 'The Seasons' could not have been squeezed in but I'm just being greedy.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow Grower,
This review is from: Glazunov: Symphonies/Ballet Suites/Cantatas/Violin Concerto (Audio CD)Describing music with words is always difficult because they are two discrete languages but, in the case of Glazunov, it is particularly hard. With his symphonies he is one of the least Russian sounding of Russian composers. Quite something, given his pivotal place in Russian music from the late 19th Century to well into the 20th Century. If anything, he probably sits somewhere between Dvorak and Brahms on one side and Vaughn Williams and Elgar on the other. The latter two English composers, who you can't help but feel he had considerable influence on, wrote symphonies that were as far removed from, say, 'Enigma Variations','Pomp And Circumstance Marches' and the 'English Folk Song Suite', as Glazunov's symphonies are from his best known works - 'The Seasons' and 'Scenes de Ballet'.
These symphonies are expansive works - very Brahmsian in that respect- and, apart from the first, possibly the most accessible, which, composed at the age of just seventeen, is quite derivative of Dvorak, in my view, have a very pastoral, mellow, almost brooding feel but, bar the eighth, which has a more sombre tone, are generally bright sunlit-edged clouds of contemplation. Listening to them you could easily imagine yourself in the Fen country or soaring above this green and pleasant land, this blessed plot, this sceptred isle...you get the picture. I have listened to these symphonies for quite some time and have to say that it's only after a few listens that they start to bear fruit. They certainly grow on you...but then this is 'War And Peace' music, not 'Baba Yaga'.
Packed in a neat box, with a very informative booklet, these seven discs are yet another rewarding bargain from Brilliant Classics.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good box set,
This review is from: Glazunov: Symphonies/Ballet Suites/Cantatas/Violin Concerto (Audio CD)A great economical way to have all the symphonies together in one place in excellent recordings. Yje presentation is fine with nice box.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous Glazunov,
This review is from: Glazunov: Symphonies/Ballet Suites/Cantatas/Violin Concerto (Audio CD)I have little to add to the other 5 star reviews and would certainly endorse Dace Gisclard's opening sentence. Heard and liked one of the Symphonies on the radio and decided to go for this very inexpensive boxed set; what a bargain! Music varies from beautifully melancholy to rousing; well performed and recorded. If you only like 3 or 4 of these pieces it's well worth the price, but I suspect you'll like the lot!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful surprise,
This review is from: Glazunov: Symphonies/Ballet Suites/Cantatas/Violin Concerto (Audio CD)I don't have anything to add to Dace Gisclard's comprehensive review, but simply needed to say that discovering Glazunov's symphonies and other works through this bargain set has been a most unexpected delight. Buy them - you won't be disappointed!
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Glazunov: Symphonies/Ballet Suites/Cantatas/Violin Concerto by Russian State Symphony Orchestra (Audio CD - 2007)