Russian composer, teacher, and conductor Alexander Glazunov was active during the late Russian Romantic period. He was the successor to The Five, a group of nationalist composers, which included Glazunov’s teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov (of “Flight of the Bumblebee” fame). Glazunov managed to combine the nationalist trend still important in Russian classical music with a cosmopolitan aesthetic. As a teacher, Glazunov went on to mentor Dmitri Shostakovich and future violin star Nathan Milstein. Despite rumours of keeping alcohol in his studio desk and taking sips while teaching, he was a tireless advocate for his students and raised the prestige level at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
Glazunov conveyed his ability to adapt to western influences, such as the increased awareness of the saxophone. He composed a Saxophone Concerto in 1934, which was very open-minded of him, given the instrument was considered “middle- class” and mere music hall fodder, not “proper” concert hall material. Glazunov was just stoked that there was a new timbre to work with. It was premiered after the composer’s death by German saxophonist Sigurd Rascher, who hounded the composer for this concerto until it was completed.
It is a relatively unknown work in the classical world, although obviously known to all sax players as it became part of the sax repertoire.
JoAnn Falletta conducts soloist Joseph Lulloff and the Brevard Music Center Orchestra in Glazunov’s Concerto for Also Saxophone and String Orchestra.
For something more familiar, you may know the famous Polovtsian Dances by Alexander Borodin. Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov finished some of Borodin’s works after Borodin’s death. According to Shostakovich, Glazunov composed this overture, and gave all the credit to Borodin. Here it is, performed by the Bolshoi Theatre – it’s as much a feast for the eyes as it is the ears!
Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was born August 19, 1865, in St. Petersburg, Russia, and died March 21, 1936, in Paris, France.