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Glazunov Symphony Nos. 1, 2, 3 & 9

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 25, 2009
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Product Details

  • Conductor: José Serebrier
  • Composer: Glazunov
  • Audio CD (August 25, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Warner Classics
  • ASIN: B002JIN1VQ
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,782 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
is in itself a masterpiece. READ IT and then go get the discs. A+++++
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The final installment in Serebrier's Glazunov symphony project not merely recapitulates the virtues of earlier releases but outdoes them in several ways. First, there is the fact that Warner offers two discs for the price of one--and there are a very ample 120+ minutes of music here. Second, the playing of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is, especially the silky strings, even more beautifully poised than in earlier installments. Third, the sound recording has improved with each installment, from the clear but rather distant sonics of the first disc (Symphony No. 5 and The Seasons). For a test case, just listen to the climax in the first movement (all there is) of the Ninth Symphony, with its booming bass drum and crashing cymbals spread against an excitingly wide sound stage.

The one constant is the conducting of Jose Serebrier, who, as a disciple of Stokowski, specializes--to the point of revelry--in Late Romantic music. There have been excellent individual recordings of the Glazunov symphonies, but no one has succeeded to the extent that Serebrier has in suggesting the overall quality of Glazunov's achievement. This is not so hard a task in the finest symphonies, Nos. 4 and 5. It's much more difficult in the rangy Third, which is Glazunov's response to an artistic crisis he experienced around 1890 as he attempted to make his musical language more cosmopolitan and move once and for all out of the orbit of nationalists such as Balakirev. Serebrier doesn't succeed in making the Third sound like a great symphony, but he certainly makes it sound important.

I may be in a minority, but I prefer the more economical Second and First Symphonies, the latter completed when the composer was a mere sixteen years old.
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A bit close to a decade ago, I confessed to a friend and fellow reviewer, Julian Grant, who graced these Amazon pages with his own informative and thought-provoking reviews I took the pleasure in reading, of how dissatisfied I was in music programmes particularly in America's concert halls. I was ranting about how too little we were exposed to the great composers like Glazunov, Atterberg, Nielsen, Popov, Myaskovsky, and others and the need to rectify that in part by not overplaying the familiar Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Beethoven, et al. in these halls. But Julian Grant put the matter into perspective in reminding me that repeated listening is a complex ingredient in music appreciation. It is indeed amazing, now that I am thinking about it, of how reactions to a piece differ upon subsequent hearings whether in concerts or in one's living room, especially when new performers have something differently to say. The over-playing issue is of course a legitimate one (still), but as demonstrated here in these recordings, the repeated-listening phenomenon, and what it yields, is ever so true.

José Serebrier's rendition of Glazunov's Third Symphony is the highlight in this two discs album and to my mind, the pinnacle achievement of this set (not forgetting even for a moment how wonderful Serebrier is in the composer's other symphonies like, for instances, the Fourth, the Sixth or even the Ninth here). Other than Vernon Handley's take in Bax's Fourth Symphony (Chandos) or Rasilainen's take in Atterberg's Second (CPO), or even Botstein's way with Popov's First (Telarc), rarely do I have the opportunity in listening to a recording that so altered the way I perceived and viewed a particular work especially in the least expected. Here, there is no exception.
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