Glazunov: Five Novelettes, Op. 15; String Quartet No. 5 in D minor

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COMPOSERS: Glazunov
LABELS: Delos
WORKS: Five Novelettes, Op. 15; String Quartet No. 5 in D minor
PERFORMER: St Petersburg String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: DE 3262
Alexander Glazunov was a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, who said he learnt not from day to day, but from hour to hour. He had a prodigious memory and, apparently, the sharpest ear, but he was more talented than original, his one indisputable ‘hit’ being the gorgeous Violin Concerto. All the music on this disc is disappointing . The Five Novelettes, written in 1886 when Glazunov was 21, are attractive essays in folk or other genres, though most of the tunes are Glazunov’s own. The slowish singing counterpoint of the third, ‘Interludium in modo antico’, already shows his academic bent. The St Petersburg Quartet’s playing is full of life and vividly recorded.

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As for the Fifth Quartet, written in 1898, one year before The Seasons, it is a model of skilful composition – especially the contrapuntal first movement – and the St Petersburg’s playing is positively honeyed. Of all Glazunov’s seven quartets, it and the Fourth are meant to be the best, representing him at the height of his powers. Sad to say, though, Glazunov seems to have nothing personal to express. Ultimately, he cut a sad figure, who raised academic standards in Russia both before and after the Revolution, then withered away in self-imposed exile. Adrian Jack