Glazunov, Alexander

Alexander Glazunov (10 August 1865 – 21 March 1936) was a late-Romantic-period Russian composer, music teacher, and conductor. Between 1905 to 1928, he was the director of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. He was crucial in the institute's reformation into the Petrograd Conservatory, later the Leningrad Conservatory, following the Bolshevik Revolution. He remained the Conservatory's director until 1930, even though he had fled the Soviet Union in 1928 and never returned. Dmitri Shostakovich was his most well-known student during the early Soviet years.

In Russian music, Glazunov successfully combined nationalism with cosmopolitanism. While he was a direct descendant of Balakirev's nationalism, he was more influenced by Borodin's epic grandeur and absorbed various other influences. The orchestral virtuosity of Rimsky-Korsakov, the poetry of Tchaikovsky, and the contrapuntal brilliance of Taneyev were among them. Younger composers such as Prokofiev and Shostakovich later dismissed his music as outdated. Still, they acknowledged that he remained a formidable figure and a calming effect during a period of transition and turbulence. Glazunov was regarded as a prodigy in his area. With the assistance of his master and friend Rimsky-Korsakov, he completed some of Alexander Borodin's most famous compositions, including the Third Symphony and the opera Prince Igor, which included the iconic Polovtsian Dances. It is said that he recreated the overture from memory after hearing it only once on the piano. Still, this claim is dubious because the warm-up, with its complex counterpoint, is impossible to play by a single pianist. It's far more likely, as Shostakovich in "Testimony" attests that Glazunov just created the overture and credited Borodin entirely. The ballets The Seasons and Raymonda and some of his later symphonies, mainly the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth, the Polonaise from Les Sylphides, and his two Concert Waltzes, are among Glazunov's most famous works today. Jascha Heifetz's favorite vehicle, his Violin Concerto, is still occasionally performed and recorded. His final composition, the Saxophone Concerto (1934), demonstrated his ability to adapt to changing musical trends in the West. He was unconcerned with the earlier rebellions of the experimental, serialist, and minimalist movements. However, he never strayed from the polished demeanor he had perfected at the beginning of the century.

The musical growth of Glazunov was strange. He was idolized by nationalist composers who were self-taught primarily and, except Rimsky-Korsakov, distrusted academic technique. Glazunov's first two symphonies could be considered an anthology of nationalist fashions similar to those used by Balakirev and Borodin; the same could be said of his symphonic poem Stenka Razin, which incorporates the folk song "Volga Boatmen" as well as orientalist techniques similar to those used by The Five. He realized in his early twenties that the polemics between academicism and nationalism were no longer relevant. Glazunov's technical mastery allowed him to write in a refined, educated style, even though his pieces were popular Russian music. He actively strove to internationalize his music with his Third Symphony, in the manner of Tchaikovsky, to whom the piece is dedicated.

The Third Symphony served as a bridge between works. Glazunov confessed that the composition caused him a lot of grief. He developed his mature style with the Fourth Symphony. The Fourth, dedicated to Anton Rubinstein, was written as a purposefully cosmopolitan piece by a Russian gazing outward to the West, but the tone was Russian. In the Fifth Symphony, he blended nationalist tradition and Western technique. Glazunov's composition rate had decreased due to his responsibilities at the Conservatory when he produced his Seventh Symphony. His constant drinking may have started to toll on his creativity after his Eighth Symphony. He drew one movement of a Ninth Symphony but abandoned the project. Glazunov composed three ballets, eight symphonies, and numerous other orchestral works, five concertos (two for piano, one for violin, one for cello, and one for saxophone), and seven string quartets, two piano sonatas, and other keyboard works, as well as some songs. The ballet Les Sylphides was created in collaboration with choreographer Michel Fokine. It was a collection of Frédéric Chopin piano compositions arranged by Glazunov. Serge Diaghilev also allowed him to write music for The Firebird after Lyadov failed. Glazunov turned down the offer. Diaghilev eventually tracked out the music's composer, the then-unknown Igor Stravinsky.

In their senior years, both Glazunov and Rachmaninoff, whose first symphony Glazunov allegedly performed so poorly at its premiere, was deemed "old-fashioned." However, thanks to many recordings of Glazunov's complete symphonic works, the reception of his music has improved in recent years.


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