Glazunov: Symphony No. 2 in F sharp minor; Symphony No. 7 in F (Pastoral)

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COMPOSERS: Glazunov
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in F sharp minor; Symphony No. 7 in F (Pastoral)
PERFORMER: Moscow SO/Alexander Anissimov
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553769
Glazunov, whom Stravinsky despised and the Shostakovich memoirs portray as a hopeless inebriate, was a composer too good to be remembered as a figure of ridicule. A splendid concerto keeps his memory green amongst violinists. A voyage round his symphonies offers a rich and rewarding journey of discovery.

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It’s probably too late for the symphonies to enter today’s shrinking orchestral repertoire; but on disc, there’s an increasing choice of versions, to which this pairing of the Second and Seventh adds an attractive glimpse of the composer’s early and late styles. These works reveal him as more than an impersonator. To the accents of Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Tchaikovsky, he adds innate symphonic know-how, smoothly building episode on episode to majestic effect.

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The Second Symphony of 1886 catches Glazunov in the freshness of youth. Strains of Borodin’s Prince Igor haunt the first movement; Tchaikovsky’s Manfred is a passionate presence in the second. The ‘Pastoral’ subtitle of the Seventh Symphony of 1902 reflects its calm, autumnal authority. The expert control of variation and sonata forms disclaims Prokofiev’s jibe that it was ‘made but not composed’. This is music to indulge in, aided by sleek and intelligently recorded readings from the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Nicholas Williams