Glazunov: Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 7

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Glazunov
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Glazunov
WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra/
José Serebrier
CATALOGUE NO: 2564-63236-2
Few would rank Glazunov among

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the great symphonists, yet his

skilful reformulations of ‘Russian

Nationalist’ nostrums contain

almost unfailingly attractive

music and are always admirably

well-crafted. In No.4, dedicated

to Anton Rubinstein, he felt he

had attained a more cosmopolitan

language, less parochially Russian.

Few commentators have concurred

(but note the piercing reminiscence

of Tristan at 11:40 into the first

movement!). Formally the work

is modestly innovative: its three

movements are held together by a

motto theme,and though it has a central scherzo it dispenses with any

slow movement; Glazunov makes

up with soulful slow passages in the

outer ones.

No. 7 (1900-01) is sometimes

dubbed the Pastoral, for the first

movement’s resemblances to

Beethoven in key and cut of melody.

It too is shyly unorthodox in form,

the exciting finale having only one

theme of its own and otherwise

using contrapuntal combination and

variation of the subjects of the other

three movements.

This movement especially

displays Glazunov’s magnificent

technique, while the impressive

slow movement is one of his most

beautiful and deeply-felt inspirations.

Altogether this is a beautiful and

enlivening work, especially in

Serebrier’s sympathetic and vigorous

performance, which has no current

competitors.

No. 4 (coupled with No. 5)

is available on ASV in a sturdy

performance by the Philharmonia

conducted by Yondani Butt, and

a sonically plusher version by

Polyansky with the Russian State SO

on Chandos; but Serebrier, helped by

the more energized-sounding playing

of the RSNO, probes deeper into

the music and makes the score much

more characterful and colourful

than either of his rivals. This is a

very useful issue.

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Calum MacDonald