Piano Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 92
Alexander Konstantinowitsch Glazunov
(geb. Sankt Petersburg, 10. August 1865, – gest. Neuilly-sur-Seine, Frankreich 21. März 1936)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F minor, op. 92
Born into a well-to-do publishing family on Aug. 10, 1865 (or July 29, according to the Julian calendar), the young Glazunov had a sheltered upbringing in St Petersburg. From early in his life his mother Elena Pavlova – a highly gifted pianist – concerned herself with the musical education of her son, whose extraordinary musical ear and musical memory attracted attention even at a young age. He had his first piano lessons at the age of six, soon followed by tuition in harmony and other aspects of music theory. The year 1879 can be regarded as a key point in the life of the young composer, with M. Balakirev taking him under his wing and recommending Glazunov to N. Rimsky-Korsakov for the study of composition. Among Glazunov’s earliest supporters, then, can be numbered no less than two of the five composers who had joined forces in the 1860s to become the celebrated ‘Mighty Handful’. Following in the footsteps of M. Glinka, the ‘Mighty Handful’ dedicated themselves to the creation of a Russian national music, marked by Russian folk-tunes, songs and melody – an influence that was to find expression in Glazunov’s own music.
The composer’s debut took place when he was sixteen years old in March 1882 and his Symphony No. 1 was given its first performance under the baton of Balakirev. After this first great success, he quickly found more supporters. Among these was Mitrofan Beljaev, a music-lover and a prosperous figure in the wood industry, who regularly put on quartet evenings in his house. In 1885 he set up a series of concerts under the title of ‘Russian symphony concerts’ in order to encourage Russian music, and these quickly became an established part of the cultural life of St Petersburg. The contemporary state of musical life was discussed at regular Friday evening meetings of the most important St Petersburg composers at Beljaev’s house, and many collaborative compositions emerged, primarily chamber music. Glazunov not only became a regular member of the Beljaev circle, but soon also found himself the object of Beljaev’s generous support. In 1885 Beljaev founded the publishing house M. P. Belaieff and bought back from other publishers the rights to Glazunov’s music so that he could himself publish the works of his protégé (and many other composers).
On top of this, in 1884 Beljaev took the still young composer with him on a trip to Germany and made it possible for him to meet F. Liszt, who was greatly admired by Glazunov, in Weimar. In addition, the folk-tunes that he heard when he travelled on to Spain and Morocco found their way into Glazunov’s compositions during the 1880s.
A further important element in Glazunov’s life beside composing was his longstanding activity as a teacher at the St Petersburg conservatoire, which he took up in 1899 as Professor for Instrumentation. During the unrest of 1905 he ensured the independence of the conservatoire from the control of the Russian Music Society, which had initiated the foundation of the conservatoire in 1862, and thus ensured greater self-determination, as well as the reinstatement of N. Rimsky-Korsakov, who had had to give up his teaching during the revolutionary turmoil. At the first session of the conservatoire’s Artistic Council in the winter of 1905, Glazunov was unanimously elected director, a post he held until 1930. Throughout his life he devoted himself to the reputation of the institution, he was considered a committed teacher and director, and during the First World War as well as during the revolutionary year 1917 he ensured that stability and contacts to the west were maintained. Despite his background in the wealthy upper class, he was valued by the communist government as a significant figure in Russian musical life…
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