Classical Music Review: New Releases

Alexander Glazunov · Works for Cello and Orchestra. Concerto Ballata for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 108 (21’02); Chant du ménestrel, Op. 71 (4’00); Two Pieces for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 20 (10’18); À la mémoire de Gogol, Op. 87; À la mémoire d’un héros, Op. 8. Moscow Symphony Orchestra; Igor Golovschin, conductor; Alexander Rudin, cello.
Naxos 8.553932.

Alexander Glazunov was a committed romanticist and a master orchestrator. Both these qualities are at the forefront in this release. The melodies are rich and moving, with a hint of melancholy; the soloist and orchestra are well balanced, the cello never buried in a wash of orchestral sound; and structure of these single movement works renders them complete and satisfying.

The most significant work here is the Concerto Ballata, written in 1931 and dedicated to Pablo Casals. Over a quiet opening the cello gradually establishes the thematic material. An agitated passage in the brass leads to a soaring melody on the cello, which subsides into a quieter section marked Adagio, quasi ballata. The accompaniment goes quiet and series of cadenzas that echo the opening mood before giving way to a dialog between the full orchestra and the cello. Another cadenza follows, rather introspective, before a bright, singing finale. This is a marvelous piece.

The other works here are of a similar, high quality. The two "Memoires" are elgant tone poems. The first, written when Glazunov was twenty and dedicated to an anonymous hero, is especially beautiful.

The present release is Vol. 11 of Naxos’s ongoing series of Glazunov’s music for orchestra. Despite coming late in the series, it serves as a splendid introduction to this often-overlooked composer who was a student of Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov and a teacher of Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

Tony Gualtieri
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