GLAZUNOV: Complete Concertos = Violin, Sax, Horn, Piano, Cello – Pine/Romanovsky/Yang/Russian Nat. Orch. /Jose Serebrier – Warner Classics (2 CDs)

by | Apr 18, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

GLAZUNOV: Complete Concertos = Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82; Chant du menestrel, Op. 71; Concerto in E-flat Major for Saxophone and String Orchestra, Op. 109; Piano Concerto No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 92; Reverie in D-flat Major for Horn and Orchestra, Op. 24; Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Major, Op. 100; Concerto Ballata in C Major for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 108; Meditation in D Major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 32 – Rachel Barton Pine, violin/Alexander Romanovsky, piano/ Wen-Sinn Yang, cello/Marc Chisson, alto saxophone/Alexey Serov, French horn /Russian National Orchestra/Jose Serebrier

Warner Classics 2564 67946-5, (2 CDs) 56:11, 57:48 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Conductor Jose Serebrier (b. 1938) continues his Glazunov project, now having added the composer’s various concertos–several of which play as one continuous movement with recognizable subdivisions–to the recorded legacy. The 1904 Violin Concerto opens the set, calling upon the spectacular artistry of Rachel Barton Pine, alluding by their lilting tropes to the 1972 historic sixty-year reunion performance by Leopold Stokowski–Serebrier’s mentor–and Romanian virtuoso Silvia Marcovici with the London Symphony Orchestra. The alternately heraldic and lyrically beguiling last movement Allegro enjoys a variegated romp of color, Pine’s flute tune particularly captivating. The 1900 Minstrel’s Song–an old Rostropovich staple–like the little 1891 D Major Meditation, Op. 32 once again with Rachel Burton Pine, is a simple but sweetly nostalgic song set in ternary form. The relation of the cello solo–here Wen-Sinn Yang–and the woodwinds, especially the oboe, becomes inverted in the da capo.

The kinship between Glazunov’s two piano concertos with the spirit of Rachmaninov seems fairly plain, although the B Major projects a Slavic impulse that bows at once to Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Chopin. Soloist Alexander Romanovsky keeps the glittery plastic effusiveness of the keyboard part in the forefront, the piano’s adding more color than content. The writing has more in common with the dreamy harp sections of Tchaikovsky ballets than the thunderous drama of that composer’s concertos. The Andante does provide a tender song. The last movement shares a melodic shape with the equivalent movement in Edward MacDowell’s D Minor Concerto, for my money. The 1911 Concerto No. 1 in F Minor takes its structure from the Tchaikovsky Trio in A Minor, whose own second movement is a theme and variations in the form of character pieces. Its first movement theme more than resembles the third movement from Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony. The lighter scoring of some episodes resembles a cross between Liszt and Litolff.

Glazunov’s last orchestral piece, the Saxophone Concerto (1934) came at the request of Sigurd Rascher, who had to badger Glazunov for its completion even at a hospital bedside. The bravura comes in the form of long uninterrupted solo lines, which virtuoso Marc Chisson negotiates seamlessly. Lyrical and moody, the music does not create any maelstroms but elicits the capacity of the alto saxophone to cast idiosyncratic reveries abroad. The last movement has its “learned” element of counterpoint into whose texture the saxophone weaves a heavy-footed folk dance, occasionally imitative of a saltarello. Nice riffs, trills, and intervallic leaps from Chisson, a tour de force accomplished unobtrusively throughout.  If Scriabin favors “poems,” then Glazunov likes “reveries,” and his 1890 D-flat Major concert piece for French horn–aptly nuanced by Alexey Serov–floats majestically. Coincidentally, Scriabin’s first orchestral piece–a Reverie–has the same opus number in his catalogue. Glazunov dedicated his C Major Concerto Ballata (1931) to Pablo Casals. The antique form of the balata conforms to the Medieval strain in Glazunov, considering his Op. 79 Suite.  A mercurial piece in several moods, it offers the cello soloist–Wen-Sinn Yang–many opportunities for virtuoso display and the sailing of a lofty tone. The frothy energy of the orchestral tissue reminds me of Edward Elgar or Hamilton Harty. When the balletic impulse takes over, the innate lyric gift that belongs to Glazunov comes to the fore with undeniable charm.

— Gary Lemco