Spring opus 34. Musical Picture in D for orchestra
Glazunow, Alexander – Spring opus 34. Musical Picture in D for orchestra
(b. St. Petersburg, 10 August 1865 – dt. Neuilly-sur-Seine, 21 March 1936)
Spring, op. 34
The decade of Alexander Glazunov’s birth witnessed some important events in the history of Russian music, all of which influenced his life and career. Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka, widely regarded as the founding father of Russian classical music, had recently passed away. His music inspired future generations of composers to value their heritage and write music with a distinctive Russian flavor. A number of important Russian composers, that in turn influenced Glazunov, were coming of age during this critical decade, including Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908), Mussorgsky (1839–81), and Borodin (1833–87). The first Russian schools for the advanced study of music (conservatories) were established in St. Petersburg (1862) and in Moscow (1866). Tchaikovsky (1840–93), arguably the greatest Russian composer, graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory as part of its first graduating class in 1865 and was appointed a professor at the Moscow Conservatory in 1866. He was a great influence on Glazunov’s music, as were Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky and Borodin. Glazunov was born into a wealthy family in St. Petersburg. He started composing before his teenage years, came to the attention of Rimsky-Korsakov, who after tutoring him privately, considered him a colleague. Glazunov achieved international acclaim with performances throughout Europe before the end of the 19th century. During the last decade of the century he made numerous guest conducting appearance in addition to composing three symphonies, two string quartets and the still popular ballet Raymonda. In 1899 he was appointed a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and in1905 was named director. Although his compositional activities declined after 1906, as director of the conservatory he was instrumental in nurturing future talents, most notably Dmitri Shostakovich. He was considered one of the most important composers in the first decade of the 20th century, with numerous performances of his music throughout Europe and America and the awarding of honorary doctorates from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. He left Russia (by then the Soviet Union) and his post at the Conservatory in 1928, touring in Europe and the United States as a conductor, and eventually settling in Paris. After his death in 1936, his music was largely forgotten, deemed by many to be old fashioned and reactionary. Only recently, with the availability of excellent recordings of much of his music, has there been a reevaluation with judgments based on the quality of the music rather than musical style. The older generation of elite Russian conductors such as Mravinsky, Svetlanov and Rozhdestvensky performed and recorded his orchestral works with regularity. More recent international level maestros such as Valerie Gergiev, Jose Serebrier, Edo de Waart, Mikhail Pletnev and Neeme Järvi have also taken up his cause.
After recording all eight of the completed Glazunov symphonies Jose Serebrier stated: “Glazunov’s music doesn’t carry its heart on its sleeve like Mahler’s and it doesn’t explode hysterically like Tchaikovsky’s. Like a Russian Brahms, his music has deep emotions that are contained and controlled, sophisticated and subtle. His perfect compositional technique is obvious in every bar of music, as is the brilliant orchestration, done in typical late nineteenth-century style… We are accustomed to thinking of “great” composers as those who lead us along new paths and take chances and experiment. But music history is also filled with composers who weren’t preoccupied by moving forward, but wrote beautiful, meaningful and communicative music. A quick glance at any Glazunov score reveals a mastery of form and harmonic progression, an absolutely professional mind at work.”
Spring, (Musical Picture in D Major), Opus 34, is a tone poem in the grand romantic tradition. Composed in 1891, it drew its inspiration from a poem by the Russian romantic poet Fyodor Tyutchev (1803–1873).
Love of the earth, charm of the year,
spring smells sweetly of us!
Nature is throwing a feast for creation,
a coming-together feast for its sons!
The spirit of life, strength and freedom
rises, fans around us!
Joy has poured into our hearts,
like an echo of spring’s celebration,
like the life-creating voice of a god!
Where are you, sons of Harmony?
Come, with bold fingers
touch the slumbering strings,
warmed by the bright rays
of love, of ecstasy, of spring!
Just as in full, flaming bloom,
at morning’s first, young light
roses glisten and burn;
as the zephyr in its joyous flight
scatters their aroma,
so do you, life-joy, pour yourself into everything.
Singers, let’s follow you!
Let our youth soar, friends,
around the bright blooms of good fortune!
This feeble gift of grateful love is yours,
this simple blossom, with little aroma.
You, my mentors, will accept it with a gracious smile.
Thus does a feeble child, as a token of its love,
bring to its mother’s breast
the flower it picked in a meadow!
If music can indeed be representative, one can imagine in the lovely music of this tone poem a renewal of nature, complete with babbling brooks, gentle winds, rustling leaves, the singing of birds and outbursts of love and joy. This is all accomplished in a late romantic language, utilizing exquisite and virtuoso orchestral colors.
Karl Hinterbichler, University of New Mexico, Spring 2013
Read German preface > HERE