|This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from April 20, 2018. It can be found in our archives at |
A few weeks ago, we spent a weekend exploring the music of The Mighty Five, the group of Nationalist composers that reshaped Russian music. Today’s throwback post revisits the music of one of their disciples, Alexander Glazunov.
In many ways, Glazunov was a transitional figure in Russian – later Soviet – music; not so much in terms of a late romantic to modern transition (that was more left to Stravinsky and Scriabin) but in terms of a nationalist transition.
Glazunov was not supportive of the modern direction Stravinsky's music took. He was not alone in this prejudice—their mutual teacher Rimsky-Korsakov was as profoundly conservative by the end of his life, wedded to the academic process he helped instill at the Conservatory. Unlike Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov was not anxious about the potential dead end Russian music might reach by following academia strictly, nor did he share Rimsky-Korsakov's grudging respect for new ideas and techniques.
Stravinsky was not the only composer whose modernist tendencies Glazunov disliked. Shostakovich mentioned Glazunov's attacks against the "recherché cacophonists"—the elder composer's term for the newer generation of Western composers, beginning with Debussy. Once, while looking at a score of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, he commented, "It's orchestrated with great taste.... And he knows his work.... Could it be that Rimsky and I influenced the orchestration of all these contemporary degenerates?"
Both Glazunov and Rachmaninoff, whose first symphony Glazunov supposedly had conducted so poorly at its premiere (according to the composer), were considered "old-fashioned" in their later years. In recent years, reception of Glazunov's music has become more favorable.
Glazunov served as director of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory between 1905 and 1928 and was instrumental in the reorganization of the institute into the Petrograd Conservatory, then the Leningrad Conservatory, following the Bolshevik Revolution. The best-known student under his tenure during the early Soviet years was Dmitri Shostakovich.
Glazunov toured Europe and the United States in 1928, and settled in Paris by 1929. He always claimed that the reason for his continued absence from Russia was "ill health"; this enabled him to remain a respected composer in the Soviet Union, unlike Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff, who had left for other reasons.
In 1934, he wrote one of his final works; a virtuoso and lyrical concerto for the alto saxophone. This is our filler work for today.
I think you will (still) love this music too