Alexander Glazunov – Stenka Rasin, Symphonic Poem op.13
(b. St. Petersburg, 10 August 1865 – dt. Neuilly-sur-Seine, 21 March 1936)
Alexander Glazunov was one of the composers, comparable with Max Bruch, who even in the first half of the 20th century persistently adhered to the musical language of Romanticism. For example, he could not bear the compositions of Stravinsky and Prokofiev, although as director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory he certainly promoted them.
Born in St. Petersburg in 1865 as the son of a publisher and bookseller and a pianist, Alexander Glasunov showed phenomenal musical talent at an early age. His mother therefore ensured a good education quite soon and sought advice from Mili Balakirev, one of the most important musical personalities of that time in Russia. At the age of nine, Glasunov began piano lessons, at eleven he started composing, and by the age of sixteen he had already composed his first symphony (of eight symphonies, the ninth was not completed and finished by someone else), a work that is still convincing today. It became a huge triumph for the very young composer, who accepted the applause in school uniform. Russia’s most influential critic, Vladimir Stasov, dubbed Glazunov the “new Samson”. The work’s premiere was conducted by Balakirev, who recommended that Glasunov study with Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev’s musical influence being very strong on the still young comüposer. Suspicions were made, including by Tchaikovsky, as to whether the youthful Glazunov had really written the symphony without help. Of course, these accusations were not tenable. The subsequent lessons with Rimsky-Korsakov lasted only a few years; Glasunov had developed, as his teacher said, “not from day to day, but from hour to hour”.
His talent was soon discovered by the wealthy publisher Baljajev, who used money inherited from his father, a timber merchant, to promote Russian composers in Europe. In 1885, his music publishing house was founded in Leipzig, using the French transcription of his name, Balaieff. The first works published by the publishing house were Glazunov’s “First Overture on Three Greek Themes” and his First Symphony. In the end, almost all of Glasunov’s compositions were to appear in this publishing house. In addition, the “Russian Symphony Concerts” in St. Petersburg were brought into being by him. Glazunov’s music played a large part in the programs, and every concert had to include a composition by him. Here the composer also soon appeared as a conductor. Naturally, his reputation grew throughout Europe. In 1884, he had met Liszt in Weimar, heard his first symphony there and conducted his Second Symphony himself at the Paris World’s Fair in 1889. …
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