WORKS: The King of the Jews
PERFORMER: Russian State SO & Symphonic Cappella/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9467
In the early years of this century Alexander Glazunov could have been tipped along with Rachmaninov as the likeliest inheritor of the Russian musical crown. Now, the Western musical experience has marginalised even such once-celebrated works as the ballet score Raymonda and the Violin Concerto. On this new recording Rozhdestvensky offers a a marginal composer’s marginal work. Glazunov was commissioned to provide a choral-orchestral score for The King of the Jews, a play by Grand Duke Konstantin Romanov on the last days of Jesus, and this is its concert version.
The grand-ducal requirements are dutifully fulfilled with hymns and solemn processional music, pastoral piping and a splash of orientalism à la Rimsky-Korsakov. Not till the final number do we arrive at the memorable ‘Song of the singers of psalms’ – here begun at the fifth, not the first, line of the text, though the recording is claimed as complete. The presentation in the Chandos booklet makes the action very difficult to grasp: one must simultaneously follow the list of dramatic headings, David Nice’s knowledgeable background information, and the translated text. Lovingly, but vainly, Rozhdestvensky displays his own orchestra and a remarkably fine Russian choir. Arthur Jacobs