Glazunov 8 & Raymonda

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.8 in E flat, Op.83
Raymonda – Suite, Op.57a

Royal Scottish National Orchestra
José Serebrier

Recorded between 9-11 January 2005 in Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: November 2005
2564 61939-2
Duration: 79 minutes

José Serebrier’s second disc of Glazunov with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra finds him moving on from the Russian composer’s most popular symphony, the Fifth, to a relative outcast in the Eighth, a more ‘classical’ work that proved to be his final complete symphonic statement. By way of a makeweight, a substantial suite from the Raymonda ballet is included.

To dismiss the Eighth would be a mistake, for it is a charming work with a darker centre. The relative warmth of the first movement, aided by rich recorded sound on this occasion, is immediately captured well by the horn solo. The strings seize the almost Elgarian phrasing that follows, and yet the end of this genial movement hints at something more obscure, the cellos and basses bringing a more threatening sound to the closing, low register chord.

And so it proves, with more than a note of unrest in the Mesto, Serebrier a touch slow here as an ostinato begins to take hold in the tonic minor key. The third movement, a curiously bitty scherzo, is difficult to grasp – it should be relatively sunny, cast as it is in C major, but with the strings’ distracting with their syncopated figures it proves a difficult nut to crack; by no means a fault of the performance.

Resolution is achieved in the finale, Glazunov making reference to the previous thematic material, Serebrier producing a much more convincing fugue here than the relatively lightweight treatment handed out in the first movement. Apart from over-enthusiastic microphone pointing on the trumpet and timpani in this movement, this caps a thoroughly enjoyable and informative reading; a lyrical, well-phrased account.

The same can be said of the Raymonda excerpts, arranged in a suite compiled by the composer, and never short of a good melody. The big tune assigned to the violins in ‘Salle dans le château de Raymonda’ reminds one of the Adagio in Khachaturian’s later Spartacus, but doesn’t get any extra syrup in Serebrier’s sensitive hands. The fanfare, however, finds the trumpets out of tune – perhaps a note of authenticity here, but grating against the strings. This aside, there is once again much to enjoy.

A Glazunov cycle from these forces would be more than welcome, and would bring modern available sets of the complete symphonies to four at the last count, with Otaka (BIS), Polyansky (Chandos) and Anissimov (Naxos) the other alternatives. Given the form shown in his first two discs, Serebrier has the potential to trump these.

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