Symphony No. 3 in A minor ‘Unfinished’/Borodin

July 23, 2011

Is this work a product of Borodin or is it mainly Glazunov? According to Gerald Abraham in “Russian Masters 1” it is Borodin and Glazunov merely put down on paper sketch material left from Borodin as well as from memory when he had first heard the material. Both movements are taken from what could have been string quartet material plus a discarded portion from Prince Igor that ended up being the trio in the second part of the second movement. There were also sketches of material for a slow movement; the basis being an Old Believer Chant but Glazunov chose not to pursue any of this material. Glazunov was solely responsible for the coda.

The first movement moderato assai is a lovely unforgettable melody that has stayed with this reviewer ever since I first heard it back in the late 50’s. It is allowed to become fully developed the theme being offered by woodwinds and strings with a small amount of brass in the background. The second movement is a Scherzo followed by a trio (taken from Igor). One can easily hear how this could have been written for quartet as well as the influence Glazunov had on this. One could very easily understand that the trio part could have come from one of the quieter moments of Igor. The clarinet is a thing of beauty. Simply orchestrated it is music for a time of reflection. The finale is a return to the original theme as the work ends on a positive upbeat note.


I’m not sure that I truly understand where the tie in if any is with these two movements but one can easily enjoy them as two short works. The Seattle Symphony is right on the mark and is an improvement over the rather overly bright recording of 20+ years ago from Naxos (8.550238). The Svetlanov offering in the Brilliant Classic 10 CD set suffers from being too slow a pace and a definite lack of dynamic range in the recording. This new offering from Naxos would be a welcome addition to your collection. The CD also includes Borodin’s first two symphonies reviewed separately.


Naxos CD# 8.572786

Track Listing:

1…. Moderato assai

2…. Scherzo: Vivo. Trio: Moderato

Total Time is 17:42




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