Glazunov: Piano Concerto No. 1; Symphony No. 5

COMPOSERS: Glazunov
LABELS: Fuga Libera
ALBUM TITLE: Glazunov
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Severin von Eckardstein (cello); National Orchestra of Belgium/Walter Weller
CATALOGUE NO: FUG 521
Glazunov’s First Piano Concerto is such an immensely attractive work that its continued absence from the concert hall seems inexplicable. Perhaps this neglect arises from the work’s somewhat conservative musical language, but whatever the case, the German pianist Severin von Eckardstein seems hardly overawed by its evident difficulties, delivering a bravura performance especially in the brilliant set of contrasting variations of the second movement. With a finely balanced recording and incisive support from the National Orchestra of Belgium under Walter Weller, this interpretation has slightly more charisma and immediacy than the fine rival version from Stephen Coombs and BBC Scottish Symphony on Hyperion.

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For the Fifth Symphony, matters are far less straightforward. On the positive side Weller and his orchestra present a sparkling account of the Scherzo and generate considerable dynamic energy in the Finale in contrast to the more measured approach of Valery Polyansky on Chandos. Earlier in the work, however, he is let down by some poor woodwind intonation, especially in the opening Maestoso moderato and third movement Andante where the phrasing is also less fluid than in Polyansky’s version and the 2004 release from José Serebrier and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on Warner Classics. Although Weller enjoys the most luxuriant recorded sound, Serebrier’s performance remains my preferred choice, matching the energy and exuberance of Weller in the Finale whilst benefiting from subtler orchestral playing and a more sophisticated sense of phrasing and structural direction in the first movement. Erik Levi