WORKS: Symphony No. 4 in E flat; Symphony No. 5 in B flat
PERFORMER: Russian State SO/Valeri Polyansky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9739
It’s difficult to believe that Glazunov wrote his first symphony at the age of 16 – the level of sophistication in the symphonic argument and the brilliance of the orchestration suggest a composer of much greater maturity and experience. This impression is certainly compounded by Valeri Polyansky’s rather weighty approach to the first movement. The effect is undeniably impressive, but I wonder whether a more youthful and exuberant atmosphere is implied by the swinging 6/8 metre. In the rest of the symphony, however, tempi seem to be well-judged with a lively Scherzo and Finale, and affectionate phrasing in the Adagio.
Polyansky is extremely adept at manipulating the various changes of tempo and mood that colour the outer movements of the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, and he unfolds the stream of melody in the Andante of the Fifth with great passion. It’s a pity therefore that the orchestra isn’t always up to scratch. I noted in particular some awful clarinet tuning at 4:08 in the opening movement of the First, and a few sour notes in the cor anglais solo that opens the Fourth. But in general, brass and wind intonation leaves something to be desired, and the ensemble could have been held on a tighter rein in the faster movements. In the Violin Concerto such problems are less apparent, but although the technical challenges of the solo part hold no terrors for Julia Krasko, her performance sounds uninvolving in comparison with Heifetz, Milstein or Vengerov. Erik Levi