Glazunov: Symphony No. 5; The Seasons

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Warner
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; The Seasons
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra/José Serebrier
CATALOGUE NO: 2564-61434-2
A well-upholstered orchestra, a conductor much given to grand gestures in the Stokowski tradition and a composer who sometimes needs the creative touch have certainly found each other in this outstanding issue. Only last month I welcomed Tadaaki Otaka’s BIS recording of the Fifth, Glazunov’s ultimate symphony-by-numbers, as the clear frontrunner; José Serebrier is even better, giving the characterful RSNO wind Romantic room to manoeuvre in their lyrical first-movement theme and finding even more panache than usual in the state-festival finale, with a spine-tingling sprint to bring down the plush-velvet curtain. As I felt when last listening to the Fifth, Glazunov’s substance is especially evasive in the slow movement, but how well this orchestra’s various departments, starting with the horns, set the indolent mood with their shifting harmonies. Serebrier’s accomplished gear-changing comes in useful for the mostly through-composed divertissements of The Seasons. Clearly Glazunov was out to emulate high balletic style in 1900 after the glories of the then-recently deceased Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and the elaborate orchestration registers beautifully in the open acoustic of Glasgow’s Henry Wood Hall. Yet there are dangers, too, in the endless succession of lush, expansive melodies; Serebrier keeps these even more in focus than previous late-Romantic masters Järvi and Svetlanov, while giving them space to billow at key points; the Petit adagio of ‘Autumn’ is a consummate example. Superb solos from the RSNO harpist and principal clarinet (still John Cushing, I presume, from the distinctive if discreet vibrato) gild the lily, and Andrew Huth’s neatly spiced introductory notes help to make this a perfect introduction to Glazunov’s sweet-toothed pleasures. David Nice