Glazunov Symphony No 8, Op 83; Cantata, Op 65; Lyric Poem, Op 12
Glazunov’s Symphony No 8 is one of his very finest. It opens confidently and lyrically on the horns, conductor Valéry Polyansky maintaining an easy-going momentum, later pressing forward, yet always holding the argument together. There is some lovely woodwind playing in the Mesto slow movement and the strings create a genuinely passionate climax. The Scherzo, less charming than usual from this composer, is given a purposeful thrust, and the finale does not outstay its welcome, with the chorale theme splendidly sonorous at the opening, the drive and tension of the playing well maintained to the end.
The lovely Poème lyrique was understandably admired by Tchaikovsky for its rich flow of Russian melancholy, so well captured here, with more responsive playing from the strings and fine horn and wind-playing, too. But what (unexpectedly) makes this Chandos disc so very attractive is the Cantata in Memory of Pushkin’s 100th Birthday. Far more than just an occasional piece, it is full of warmly lyrical ideas, with Glazunov’s inspired flow of invention more than compensating for the doggerel poetry he was forced to set by the ‘unrefusable’ Grand Duke Constantine Romanov.
The work opens jubilantly and is framed and interlaced by splendid, powerfully sung and very Russian choruses of gratitude. There is a lovely ‘Berceuse’, delightfully decorated by the woodwind, for the mezzo, here radiantly sung by Ludmila Kuznetsova, who totally redeems its sentimentality; a later aria of praise for the tenor is relished ardently by Vsevolod Grivnov; finally comes a hymn, in which the two soloists join, exultantly taken up by the chorus, with a burst of joy at the close. This one of those happy works, full of melody, that makes you feel glad to be alive. A truly memorable performance then, and the Chandos recording is well up to house standards. Don’t miss it.