- Symphony No. 8 in E flat major, Op. 83
- Raymonda, suite from the ballet, Op. 57a
Alexander Glazunov's orchestral music is still mostly terra incognita for concertgoers outside of Russia, but José Serebrier's superb 2004 recording of the Fifth Symphony provided a point of entry for many listeners. As a second and equally gratifying serving, Serebrier now offers Glazunov's Eighth (and last) Symphony, paired with a suite from the ballet Raymonda. Glazunov is typically considered an heir to Tchaikovsky, and there's a fair amount of truth in this -- at least to the extent that anyone who loves the elder composer's symphonies and ballets is sure to find Glazunov's music enchanting as well. The Eighth Symphony brims with melody and brilliantly effective orchestration. Glazunov might perhaps be faulted for being too much the solid professional and not enough of a musical risk-taker, and yet this criticism seems rather toothless considering the great pleasure that his exquisite craftsmanship provides. The Eighth was finished in 1905, when Glazunov was only 40, and it finds him at the height of his powers; he lived for another 30 years, but his duties as director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory (and his increasingly heavy drinking) would subsequently prevent him from advancing on his achievements up to this point. As for the earlier Raymonda score, first performed in 1898, a scenario set during the medieval Crusades allowed Glazunov free rein for various kinds of musical exoticism as well as the requisite Romantic waltzes. The glistening orchestration is beautifully executed here by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and it's clear that Glazunov has found an ideally sympathetic and sensitive interpreter in Maestro Serebrier. There are sure to be more gems in the Glazunov catalogue, and we'll keep listening as long as this team continues to mine them.