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Cat. No. CHAN 9824 Price: £5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 9824 - Glazunov: King of the Jews
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Available From: 25 May 2000
In 1912 the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich Romanov brought the last of the great Russian composers , Alexander Glazunov, into his orbit to furnish the not-so-incidental music for a mystery play he had just written, ‘The King of the Jews’. Up to this point, Glazunov had only written one work on a religious theme: the incidental music to Wilde’s ‘Salomé’.

Glazunov was instructed that to prevent interference from the censor, he should arrange that the person of Christ would never appear on the stage. He would be invisible, seen only by the actors. Glazunov thought up a theme for Christ, first introduced in a gently lilting 6/8 on cor anglais. Even if the theme does not, as the composer asserts, germinate ‘the entirety of the music’, it certainly lends itself to abundant symphonic variation and the whole work proves to be more of a symphonic entity than many other sets of incidental music.

The premiere on 9 January 1914 was given in the Hermitage Theatre; the distinguished producer Nikolai Arbatov took charge of a mixture of amateur actors (including the Grand Duke) and professionals; and Mikhail Fokine arranged the choreography.

Glazunov’s incidental music to Wilde’s ‘Salomé’ was written in 1908, three years after Richard Strauss’s opera on the same subject, and at a time when Glazunov had become director of the St Petersburg Conservatory and was at the height of his powers and greatest international acclaim.
Reviews

‘… with their refined brass, richly expressive solo winds, and resplendent strings, Polyansky’s Russian State Symphony Orchestra is by far the best orchestra to essay this music so far.’
American Record Guide on Chan 9486 (Grechaninov)

The outstanding performances on this disc make a convincing case for these obscure yet powerful works. The mighty male voices of the Russian State Symphonic Cappella are memorably impressive and finely balanced by the lucent lyricism of the womens. But its the shattering tension of the orchestral playing that really makes the disc special, the seemingly impregnable wall of brass offset by string playing of infinite tautness to thrilling dramatic effect.
BBC Music Magazine

‘Polyansky conducts a colourful, warmly expressive performance, helped by rich, full recording.’
The Guardian on CHAN 9709 (Symphony No. 2/Coronation Cantata)

 

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