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Glazunov: Complete Symphonies
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2013
In more than fifty years of record collecting I have never taken much notice of the music of Alexander Glazunov, knowing only the violin concerto and his ballet The Seasons. His eight symphonies were, until now, unknown territory. Now that has changed and I have discovered works that I feel I should have explored years ago. They are very attractive and well constructed, full of good tunes and very well orchestrated. It might be said that they are all from the same mould, for there is a consistency of character and substance from the first, composed when he was still in his teens, to the eighth, written about twenty years later. As you progress through them there are few surprises but most certainly a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction, such is the quality of Glazunov's writing. It is also easy to find fault with one or two of his finales, where he seems to take a long time to get to the point, as it were. But Glazunov was not alone in that, and there were greater composers who struggled with their finales without always finding an ideal solution.

These performances by Vladimir Fedoseyev and the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra were recorded between 1974 and 1982 and, to my ears at least, it is difficult to imagine anyone doing better in these works, but then I have not heard any of the other sets that are available; perhaps someone who has will write a comparative review. It seems to me that Fedoseyev and his orchestra bring out the best in these symphonies. The playing is quite superb and in many places thrilling and captivating by turn. The sound of these recordings is very good: a warm, vibrant and open acoustic which allows the detail in Glazunov's orchestration to shine through. All in all another excellent bargain from Brilliant Classics.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2014
Alexander Glazunov is not a composer you are ever likely to hear in British concert halls, only his violin concerto gets rare outings. History is unfair to many composers but who would have thought Massenet's operas would ever be heard in major houses again? perhaps Glazunov may yet see a revival of interest in his works.

This set of his complete symphonies isn't top notch technically and also left me wondering if there might be heights and depths to the works that conductor Fedoseyev doesn't reach. However the one thing Glazunov was good at was writing a tune and his often lush melodies come thick and fast in these symphonies. His first was actually written when he was still a schoolboy and is very much influenced by the Russian national school, it is actually sub titled 'Slavonic' and the Russian folk influence is very marked. The second symphony follows the nationlism of the first and it is in his third where we hear the dreamy romantic melodies that I most associate with this composer.

From the fourth onwards his writing seems more mainstream European but with nods to Tchaikovsky here and there, only his final eighth symphony seems to move beyond Glazunov's world to reflect the tourmoil in Russia at the time it was written, with a degree of drama and angst that has perhaps been largely absent elsewhere. There is one filler on the third disc, the Concert Walz No1 which is desrving of being a filler in the concert hall too.

To sum up although these are only average recordings and interpretations they still make rewarding listening and for those with a love of Russian music the bargain price makes then well worth investing in.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
At this give-away price you have little reason to hesitate in experimenting with Glazunov's symphonies, especially when they are as well played and recorded as they are here. The sound is slightly dull analogue with a smidgen of what sounds like tape-drag occurring occasionally in movements such as the Andante in the Fourth Symphony, unless it’s the fault of the orchestra's intonation, which I doubt. Fedoseyev is a great conductor and ideally placed to champion these rarely heard works; his orchestra is very fine and clearly at home in the idiom.

I mostly agree with previous reviewers' assessments but would only warn the prospective purchase that if you proceed chronologically through all eight you might, around half way through, be less than enchanted, as Glazunov's earlier works are certainly well crafted and bear evidence of his remarkable skill as an orchestrator but somehow rather unmemorable. You need to persevere and find that the last three in particular have much more to offer in terms of tautness of structure and thematic and melodic invention; there is a fair amount of rambling and circularity n the earlier symphonies which can make even short movements seem to outstay their welcome.

Influences abound: right from the start you will hear echoes of Schumann's "Rhenish Symphony" in the courtly, dotted 3/4 rhythm Allegro which opens the First Symphony then Dvorak, in the Russian dances of the Scherzo and Borodin in the woodwinds of the Nocturne-like Adagio. The Finale is reminiscent of Mendelssohn but static. Glazunov was clearly one precocious sixteen-year-old and gradually absorbed the lesson from Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and even Wagner.

After the grand opening of the Second Symphony we again hear reminders of Borodin's style in an Andante whose lovely, broad melody must owe something to Konchakovna's Cavatina in "Prince Igor" while the Scherzo has a kind of proto-Sibelian scurrying to its movement. Again, Mendelssohn is present in the Finale but the same problem of a lack of direction compromises the effect of the music.

The Third Symphony displays some advance in technique, its Andante reproducing the melancholy of certain key moments in "Eugene Onegin" without Tchaikovsky's melodic facility and the Scherzo, played skilfully at breakneck speed, bustles like Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee".

I don't want to push the suggestion too far that the early symphonies all sound like collages of ideas from his predecessors and teachers, but it is apparent that quite naturally it took the young composer several attempts to develop his own idiom and sound-world. These become more identifiable in Symphony No. 4, which is instantly more interesting but evinces the persistent problem of going through countless thematic permutations without really suggesting any momentum or progress towards an identifiable goal. The Fifth is more succinct and shapely, sporting another lovely Andante and an exuberant Finale that Tchaikovsky would have been proud of.

From then on, the final three symphonies, the products of a mature composer, are distinctly more effective. Their music is more succinct and substantial, being both more sober and economical in the exposition of themes but also able to move into passages which are more daring and rhapsodic, as in the oddly haunting Andante of the Seventh with its descending semitone theme.

I suspect that I shall turn more often to those later works rather than play "Spot the Composer" in the earlier ones. Their comparative rarity, especially in Western concert halls, is probably deserved if you consider them in competition with greater successors but anyone interested in the development of 19C Russian symphonic music will want to hear these - and at this price anyone can.
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on 2 May 2015
I am very familiar with these symphonies and do have other recordings. But never had a complete set so this is a great bargain even if the playing is not top notch the feeling of the musicians and conductor towards this wonderful music is worth the investment.
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on 27 May 2015
Nice performances in good sound.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2014
Didn't know this muisic rather enjoyable
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