Alexander Glazunov: The Piano Concertos

November 1, 2015

album

christophorous che0201-2

Born in St. Petersburg on August 10, 1865 Alexander Konstantinovitch Glazunov was born to a well known publisher and bookseller. It was because of this background that Glazunov was able to progress musically as rapidly as he did. Who better to teach him harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration than Rimsky-Korsakov and he was not yet a teenager. In 1881 at the age of 16 he composed his first symphony and had it performed by the School of Free Music under the direction of Balakirev. He was so advanced at such an early age he was nicknamed “Little Glinka” by Rimsky-Korsakov and their relationship changed from a teacher student relationship to one of friends.

The two piano concertos were written during his tenure as the head of the St. Petersburg Conservatory 1911 and 1917. They are not written in the standard 3 movement concerto form. The first is two movements and the second is a single movement. The structure of the first is a melody with lots of chromaticism, reminding one of Rachmaninoff, followed 8 variations in the second forming the slow movement. It concludes with a ninth variation which picks up material from the first melody. The orchestral is nicely written and blends well with the showmanship of the piano. The second concerto is but a single movement but upon careful listening one will hear the movements within the movement. While written during the October Revolution of 1917 the work sounds nothing like material that was being written by the likes of Stravinsky, Shostakovich and other avant-garde material. This is material that sounds as if it came from the pen of Franz Lizst or others from the mid to late 19th century. The final piece Carnival Overture was written in 1893 and was originally published by the composer for 4 hands. This recording with orchestra takes one through all of the sights and sounds of a festive occasion. I found the use of the organ a welcome addition to the instrumentation Glazunov chose. It adds a touch of seriousness and serenity which quickly returns to the majestic sound of brass chords and swirling violins. It is filled with wonderful colors in the orchestration and overall an easy to listen to work that concludes this CD.

I found that the overall sound of the recording superior to many releases I’ve reviewed. There is no distant sound on this recording at all. The highs were clean and crisp and the bass exhibited no signs of booming at all. The two blended nicely together. The miking of the piano kept it at the forefront without drowning out the orchestra. I found both the Slovak Orchestra, conductor Griffiths, and pianist Karl-Andreas Kolly to be more than adequate and would welcome hearing additional material from them in the future. These are works that might be out of your comfort zone but should be included in your collection. The recording is available as an MP3 or CD.

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