Five Novelettes, Op. 15 /Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)

June 16, 2011


In the past twenty years we’ve seen the Glazunov catalog increase significantly. The prolific composer of the late 19th and early 20th century who originally studied under Balakirev, head of the ‘Mighty Five’, and later became a part of the Belyayev circle with Rimsky-Korsakov has always taken a back seat to other Russian composers of his era. Hollywood had and still does have an ‘A’ list of composers along with a ‘B’ one. Glazunov would be on the ‘B’ list. He offers some very good solid Russian Nationalistic sounding compositions but he has never had that unforgettable melody or work that stands above others like Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninoff. Many critics consider his work journeymen like and bland. There is nothing unique. There isn’t a Glazunov sound that is instantly recognizable. I disagree but I’m in the minority on this one.


The “Five Novelettes” were written sometime between the years of 1881-1886. Perhaps the ‘Suite’ as it was originally titled took to pen and paper at an early date and was worked on later. The five movements written for a quintet consisting of two violins, viola, and two cellos offers a mainly bright up beat thirty or so minute quintet. The first movement is a Spanish dance complete with string plucking from the cello in an allegretto tempo. The second movement is marked oriental and it is another upbeat lively dance with the cello string plucking from the cello to start it off. The third movement is a very Russian influenced being quite solemn in nature. It is very peaceful and tranquil. The fourth selection is in complete contrast to the third as it is a delicate waltz. The final movement Hungarian in nature is a return to the style of the opening movement complete with the string plucking and is the longest of the five at nine minutes. It is exactly what you would think of if a gypsy were dancing. In conclusion this is a work from a young Glazunov that should be explored. Recommended.


Track Listing:

1…. Alla spagnuola: Allegretto (6:33)

2…. Orientale: Allegro con brio (3:57)


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