Aleksandr Glazunov

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
Comments
01Glazunov The Golden Boy20121126

Donald Macleod explores the early life and career of Glazunov.

Described as the "Last of the Mohicans", Aleksandr Glazunov was a composer of immense stature, who as Director of the St Petersburg Conservatoire, protected his students during revolutionary events in Russia. Glazunov, who studied with Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov, took the Russian public by storm with his First Symphony, before he'd even turned eighteen. Deemed to be the future leader of the Nationalist music movement, his symphony caught the attention of the timber merchant Mitrofan Belyayev, who then patronised Glazunov including publishing the young composer's works. By 1899 he was appointed professor at the St Petersburg Conservatoire, where he eventually became Director. Although Glazunov experienced many successes in Russia and abroad, such as his ballet The Seasons, and his Violin Concerto, he eventually became too involved in conservatoire politics, and composing took second place. During revolutionary events in Russia, Glazunov shielded his students as far as he could, in particular standing up against anti-Semitism. However the strains of daily life and Conservatoire politics were eventually too much, and Glazunov left Russia in 1928, and never returned. By this time his music was considered old fashioned, and he himself a relic of a bygone age. After launching himself into a busy conducting tour of Europe, he eventually died in Paris in 1936.

Donald Macleod explores the early life and career of Aleksandr Glazunov. Originally tutored by Rimsky-Korsakov, and to a lesser extent Balakirev, Glazunov initially demonstrated similar musical interests such as Exoticism, which can be heard in his Spanish Song. He was soon viewed as the golden boy, with the premiere of his First Symphony, although some critics suggested that his family must have paid for the work to be produced by other musicians.

The First Symphony was a huge success, and Glazunov was soon introduced to Mitrofan Belyayev, who went on to publish and promote Glazunov's works in Russia and abroad. Glazunov amongst other composers would frequently attend Friday evening gatherings at Belyayev's house, where they'd all try out their new works, including Glazunov's First String Quartet. Glazunov's pieces were soon being regularly performed during the Russian Symphony Concert season, and he started to produce a number of orchestral works, including his two Overtures on Greek Themes.

02Glazunov The Next Leader Of The Nationalist Composers20121127

Donald Macleod explores Glazunov's early development as a composer.

Described as the "Last of the Mohicans", Aleksandr Glazunov was a composer of immense stature, who as Director of the St Petersburg Conservatoire, protected his students during revolutionary events in Russia.

By the 1880s, Glazunov was firmly under the wing of his rich patron Belyayev, who took his young protégé to Europe where they met Franz Liszt. Liszt even conducted a performance of the younger composer's First Symphony in Weimar. Glazunov had achieved some degree of status in Russia by this point - he was acting as editor for Belyayev's music publishing firm along with fellow composers Rimsky-Korsakov and Lyadov. Upon the death of Borodin, Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov stepped in to complete Borodin's opera Prince Igor, which provided Glazunov with much musical experience. Emerging from this busy period a much more experienced composer, he produced his Third String Quartet.

Glazunov was now very busy as both composer and conductor, and not only in Russia. He'd recently experienced rehearsals and performances of Wagner's Ring cycle in St Petersburg, which left a huge impression on the younger composer. Glazunov went on to compose his orchestral poem The Sea, which he dedicated to Wagner. Only a few years later, Glazunov's music was being performed as far afield as Chicago.

03The Russian Brahms20121128

Donald explains why Glazunov was hailed as the 'Russian Brahms'.

Described as the "Last of the Mohicans", Aleksandr Glazunov was a composer of immense stature, who as Director of the St Petersburg Conservatoire, protected his students during revolutionary events in Russia.

Glazunov by the 1890s was an international success, and his own music was now looking outside his native Russian borders for inspiration. Around this time he became good friends with Tchaikovsky, another composer whose music looked more to the West. Glazunov had faced a creative crisis, the novelty of stardom had started to wear thin, and he now began to re-evaluate his music. Between 1888 and 1892 he composed 27 works, including his String Quintet which he dedicated to the Imperial Russian Music Society.

With Glazunov's increasing interest in the music of the West, which can be heard in his First Concert Waltz, he was now being hailed as the "Russian Brahms". He also continued to compose symphonies, and in 1895 produced his Fifth Symphony, which has become one of his few works to still be performed regularly today. It was also in the 1890s that Glazunov moved into a new line of composition, music for the stage. He was never particularly interested in opera, but did go on to compose a number of ballets including Raymonda.

04Glazunov The Radical20121129

Donald Macleod explores Glazunov's life during turbulent political times in Russia.

Described as the "Last of the Mohicans", Aleksandr Glazunov was a composer of immense stature, who as Director of the St Petersburg Conservatoire, protected his students during revolutionary events in Russia.

In 1899, Glazunov was appointed Professor of Instrumentation at the St Petersburg Conservatory. During that same year he composed a number of works, including his popular ballet The Seasons, and also a Cantata in Memory of Pushkin's 100th birthday. This was a creative peak for Glazunov - he composed many of his best works over the following few years.

By 1904-5, Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov found themselves caught up in politics at the conservatoire. In the eyes of the students, both composers became heroes, although they started to receive hate mail, and the police stopped performances of their music. It was during the start of these turbulent times that Glazunov composed one of his best known works today, his Violin Concerto.

In 1905 Glazunov was appointed Director of the Conservatoire, and from this point he started to compose less and less, as he became caught up in the politics of that institution. He did travel to England where he received honorary doctorates from Oxford and Cambridge, and by 1913, had turned to music for the stage again, with his The King of the Jews.

05 LASTLast Of The Mohicans20121130

Donald Macleod on Glazunov's last years, when he was seen as a great man from a bygone age

Described as the "Last of the Mohicans", Aleksandr Glazunov was a composer of immense stature, who as Director of the St Petersburg Conservatoire, protected his students during revolutionary events in Russia.

By the start of the First World War, Glazunov was feeling very out of touch. His friends Belyayev, Rimsky-Korsakov and Lyadov had all died, and his music was seen by younger generations as old fashioned. One student, Shostakovich, described Glazunov as the last of the Mohicans. This period in Russia was dangerous, especially for people like Glazunov, as he was a member of the minor nobility. He and his mother found themselves living in two rooms, with little heating and little to eat, and by this point he was dependent upon alcohol. It was during these miserable years for Glazunov that he composed his romantic Second Piano Concerto.

Glazunov was still active on behalf of his students at the St Petersburg Conservatoire, shielding them from political harm such as anti-Semitism. However, the strains of those turbulent times and his poor living conditions were taking their toll. Although in 1922 he was named Peoples Artist, and awarded better living conditions, his response was that the Conservatoire needed more wood to keep his students warm. By 1928 Glazunov was fully exhausted. He left for the Schubert centenary in Vienna and never returned to Russia. He launched a conducting career, touring Europe and going into a studio to record his ballet The Seasons. It was in Paris, 1936, that Glazunov died. His remains were transferred back to Russia in 1972.