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String Quintet in A minor Op.39

Alexander Glazunov (b. 1865 - d. 1936)

Vanbrugh Quartet (photo credit: Con Kelleher)

Vanbrugh Quartet (photo credit: Con Kelleher)

Composer
Alexander Glazunov (b. 1865 - d. 1936)
Composition Year
1891-2
Work Movements
1. Allegro
2. Scherzo: Allegro moderato
3. Andante sostenuto
4. Finale: Allegro moderato
Artists
Philip Higham [cello], Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello])

Programme Note Writer:
© Sarah M. Burn

Glazunov became famous in his teens when his First Symphony was performed to great acclaim in March, 1882, conducted by Balakirev. Three years previously Balakirev had recommended that the talented boy, who was gifted with an exceptional ear and musical memory, should study composition privately with Rimsky-Korsakov. The lessons only lasted for two years because Rimsky-Korsakov discovered that Glazunov progressed not from day to day but from hour to hour. A lifelong friendship developed between the two and they were both members of the Belyayev Circle as the group of Russian composers who met each Friday at the home of the wealthy Mitrofan Belyayev was called. Belyayev devoted his immense fortune to furthering the careers of Glazunov and the younger generation of Russian composers, organising the Russian Symphony Concerts in St. Petersburg in 1885 and a music publishing business in Leipzig

In the early 1890s there was a considerable change in Glazunov’s style which can be seen as a moving away from his adherence to the traditions of the Russian musical classics by the composers known as The Mighty Handful (Borodin, Cui, Musorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, led by Balakirev) towards the style of Anton Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky. Briefly, The Mighty Handful wished to follow in Glinka’s footsteps and create a distinctly Russian national school. By the 1880s this had been achieved and Rimsky-Korsakov then went his own way, allying himself and his followers with Belyayev and affecting a rapprochement with the West. Boris Schwarz neatly summed up Glazunov’s achievement: he succeeded in reconciling Russianism and Europeanism. He was the direct heir of Balakirev’s nationalism but tended more towards Borodin’s epic grandeur. At the same time he absorbed Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral virtuosity, the lyricism of Tchaikovsky and the contrapuntal skill of Taneyev.

He wrote his String Quintet in 1891-2 and the changes in his style are evident in this work. During these years before the end of the century Glazunov wrote most of his string music to be played at the Friday evening socials at Belyayev’s home and it was usually in the form of single movements collected into suites. In the String Quintet he attempted to write a longer work showing evidence of greater concentration and embracing a more cosmopolitan view.

The first and third movements are particularly interesting for the way in which the prevailing lyrical mood gradually becomes more dramatic. At the beginning of the third movement the yearning solo cello melody is overwhelmed by dramatically tense chords played by the other instruments, and the melancholy mood does not brighten until near the end. The second movement begins pizzicato and is an animated and brilliant virtuoso piece with a lyrical trio in the middle. Glazunov wrote many scherzos, and this is one of the finest and wittiest of them all. The exuberant dance-like Finale contains a number of contrasting episodes in the manner of a rondo. 

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String Quintet in A minor Op.39

Composer: Alexander Glazunov (b. 1865 - d. 1936)
Performance date: Saturday 5th July 2014
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Alexander Glazunov (b. 1865 - d. 1936)
Work Title String Quintet in A minor Op.39
Composition Year 1891-2
Work Movements 1. Allegro
2. Scherzo: Allegro moderato
3. Andante sostenuto
4. Finale: Allegro moderato
Artist(s) Philip Higham [cello], Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello])
Performance Date Saturday 5th July 2014
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Finale
Duration 00:31:08
Recording Engineer Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category String Quintet
Instrumentation 2vn, 2va, 2vc
Programme Note Writer © Sarah M. Burn

Glazunov became famous in his teens when his First Symphony was performed to great acclaim in March, 1882, conducted by Balakirev. Three years previously Balakirev had recommended that the talented boy, who was gifted with an exceptional ear and musical memory, should study composition privately with Rimsky-Korsakov. The lessons only lasted for two years because Rimsky-Korsakov discovered that Glazunov progressed not from day to day but from hour to hour. A lifelong friendship developed between the two and they were both members of the Belyayev Circle as the group of Russian composers who met each Friday at the home of the wealthy Mitrofan Belyayev was called. Belyayev devoted his immense fortune to furthering the careers of Glazunov and the younger generation of Russian composers, organising the Russian Symphony Concerts in St. Petersburg in 1885 and a music publishing business in Leipzig

In the early 1890s there was a considerable change in Glazunov’s style which can be seen as a moving away from his adherence to the traditions of the Russian musical classics by the composers known as The Mighty Handful (Borodin, Cui, Musorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, led by Balakirev) towards the style of Anton Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky. Briefly, The Mighty Handful wished to follow in Glinka’s footsteps and create a distinctly Russian national school. By the 1880s this had been achieved and Rimsky-Korsakov then went his own way, allying himself and his followers with Belyayev and affecting a rapprochement with the West. Boris Schwarz neatly summed up Glazunov’s achievement: he succeeded in reconciling Russianism and Europeanism. He was the direct heir of Balakirev’s nationalism but tended more towards Borodin’s epic grandeur. At the same time he absorbed Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral virtuosity, the lyricism of Tchaikovsky and the contrapuntal skill of Taneyev.

He wrote his String Quintet in 1891-2 and the changes in his style are evident in this work. During these years before the end of the century Glazunov wrote most of his string music to be played at the Friday evening socials at Belyayev’s home and it was usually in the form of single movements collected into suites. In the String Quintet he attempted to write a longer work showing evidence of greater concentration and embracing a more cosmopolitan view.

The first and third movements are particularly interesting for the way in which the prevailing lyrical mood gradually becomes more dramatic. At the beginning of the third movement the yearning solo cello melody is overwhelmed by dramatically tense chords played by the other instruments, and the melancholy mood does not brighten until near the end. The second movement begins pizzicato and is an animated and brilliant virtuoso piece with a lyrical trio in the middle. Glazunov wrote many scherzos, and this is one of the finest and wittiest of them all. The exuberant dance-like Finale contains a number of contrasting episodes in the manner of a rondo.