Glazunov: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 8 (CD review)

Alexander Anissimov, Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.553660.

I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. If the name of Russian composer Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) conjures up little more in your memory banks than the Raymonda and Seasons ballets, you're probably not alone. He is one of those very fine composers that people know today for mainly just a couple of things even though he composed a huge quantity of stuff. Fortunately, in the late 1990's and early 2000's the Naxos label sought to make Glazunov's symphonies better recognized through a series of recordings with Alexander Anissiov and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.

Glazunov  premiered the Eighth Symphony in 1906, his last completed large-scale piece. It is a big symphony, to be sure, and typically Russian: weighty, resonant, and momentous, and, yes, in part a little menacing. Its most interesting movements are its second and third. The slow second movement has a particularly lyrical and serene central portion that would charm almost anyone. Then the tumultuous third movement scherzo provides an ideal contrast to the preceding repose. Fun stuff.

Alexander Anissimov
Nevertheless, it's the Fifth Symphony that most impressed me. It may not display the same command of symphonic forces that the later Eighth does, but the Fifth has a wonderful combination of styles that range from Rimsky-Korsakov to Mendelssohn. At times you'd swear you were listening to one of Rimsky's colorful tone poems and at other times you'd think you were in one of Mendelssohn's enchanted fairy forests. It's really quite delightful, and we must congratulate Maestro Anissiov for his splendid work.

The sound Naxos delivers here is among the best from this source. They provide the Moscow Symphony splendid, natural sonics, with an excellent orchestral bloom, reasonable depth of field, and no untoward prominence of any single instrument. The sonics are perhaps not the utmost in transparency nor is there much deep bass, but there is none of the soft, fuzzy, overly resonant acoustic we sometimes get from the Moscow Orchestra, either.

The disc's reasonable cost (especially now that used copies are so readily available) makes it easy for anybody to sample Glazunov's talents, the Moscow orchestra under Anissimov makes it easy to listen to, and the music takes care of itself in offering the differing sides of this fascinating composer.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa