Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Alexander Glazunov

When most people think of "The Seasons" in classical music, they think of Vivaldi. Well, that's good and all, but there is another "The Seasons*" out there which deserves attention, this one by composer Alexander Glazunov.

*Warning! The 2nd mvt. of Autumn is so beautiful you may cry!

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was born the son of a publisher and bookseller in St. Petersburg in 1865. As a child he showed considerable musical ability and he met Balakirev in 1879, who introduced the young Glazunov to Rimsky-Korsakov. His first nine symphonies were finished by the age of sixteen and these works showed much influence from Balakirev. Sadly, this relationship with Balakirev was not to continue.

The rich timber-merchant Mitrofan Petrovich Belyayev formed an informal association of Russian composers with Rimsky-Korsakov, and after attending the performances of Glazunov's symphonies both in St. Petersburg and in Moscow, the young composer was invited to be part of Balakirev's circle. Belakirev, the self-appointed mentor of Russian nationalists composers, was upset by this because Glazunov became a regular at Rimsky-Korsakov's gatherings on Friday evenings, instead of attending his Tuesday evening meetings. Belyayev took the young composers to meet Liszt in 1884 and it was at Weimar where Glazunov's First Symphony was performed outside Russia for the first time.

In 1899 Glazunov joined the staff of the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, but by this time his admiration for his teacher seems to have cooled. Rimsky-Korsakov’s wife was later to remark on Glazunov’s admiration for Tchaikovsky and Brahms, suspecting in this the influence of Taneyev and of the critic Laroche, champion of Tchaikovsky and a strong opponent of the nationalists, a man described by Rimsky-Korsakov as the Russian equivalent of Hanslick in Vienna, a comparison that, from him, was not entirely complimentary.

Glazunov, however, remained a colleague and friend of Rimsky-Korsakov, and demonstrated this after the political disturbance of 1905, when the latter was dismissed for supporting the students who had joined liberal protests against official policies. Glazunov was elected director of an institution, soon after and reinstalled Rimsky-Korsakov.

In 1928 Glazunov attended the Schubert celebrations in Vienna, thereafter he remained abroad. He eventually settled near Paris, where he died in 1936.

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