GLAZUNOV: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 92; Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Major, Op. 100 – Elena Glazunov, piano/Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Alois Melichar
Pristine Audio PASC 249, 51:00 [avail. in various formats incl. CD-R from www.pristine classical.com] ****:
Alexandre Glazunov came to the keyboard concerto relatively late in his career, given pupil Rachmaninov’s precocious excursions in the form as early as his Op. 1. The Glazunov First Concerto dates from 1911, and he dedicated the composition to Leopold Godowsky, whom Glazunov heard in St. Petersburg in 1905. A superstition about working on his Ninth Symphony diverted Glazunov to labor on the F Minor Concerto. The Second Concerto dates from the time of the Russian Revolution, 1917. Elena Glazunov, the performer in these 1956 inscriptions originally from Telefunken, was the composer’s step-daughter, though Glazunov later moved to adopt her legally as his daughter. Conductor Alois Melichar (1896-1976) made a reputation as a conductor, but perhaps even more so as an acerbic critic of his contemporaries, especially Arnold Schoenberg.
The F Minor Concerto (31 October 1956) opens with an Allegro moderato of lyrical lushness, moody and melancholy. The predominance of dreamy arpeggios places the work solidly in the nostalgic-sentimental school of Rachmaninov, albeit colored by Glazunov’s innate balletic impulses and capacity for glittery detail, even at the expense of the grand bravura that piano concertos typically demand. The melodic tissue more than once recalls the slow movement of Rachmaninov’s E Minor Symphony. The second movement offers a theme and ten variations in various characters, mostly andante and andantino in a style resembling that of Reger, but assuming quicker speed and more Slavic definition in the later variants. Elena Glazunov moves quite comfortably through this concerto, which she had premiered so many years prior. Variation V (Intermezzo) moves as an Allegro, and its colors well point to Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The ensuing Lento (quasi una fantasia) incorporates lovely riffs in the cello and woodwinds. A playful Mazurka follows, chromatic and spirited, with choppy rhythms and cymbals crashing. The busy Scherzo moves briskly, the color quite French in the manner of Faure. The last variation takes its cue from the pomp and ceremony Tchaikovsky lavishes on his theme and variations, as in the Suite No. 3 in G.
The B Major Concerto (29 November 1956) spins out–in one unbroken movement–a melodic series of gestures much in the manner of Rimsky-Korsakov’s brief Piano Concerto, Op. 30. The rhapsodic ethos of the piece seems a cross between Tchaikovsky and Litolff or Saint-Saens in an expansive mood. The brilliant arpeggios seem to transpose the harp riffs in many Tchaikovsky ballets to the keyboard, cross-fertilized by Chopin’s roulades. The middle section projects the same lyrical allure that energizes the composer’s Violin Concerto, suavely conservative. When the arpeggios tumble downwards, they imitate the Chopin Andante spianato or Debussy’s E Major Arabesque. The last movement bears many of the rhythmic earmarks of the D Minor MacDowell Concerto. The sheer eclecticism of the style testifies to Glazunov’s successful fusion of Russian and European impulses. In its pomposo moments, Glazunov takes his hat off to both Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov’s flamboyant pageantry. For those who dwell on “authentic” performances of a musical style, this family portrait of the two Glazunov concertos will come highly recommended.
— Gary Lemco