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Glazunov, Prelude Op. 49, No. 1 in D flat

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Rachfan, Sep 2, 2011.

  1. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Aleksandr Glazunov (1865–1936) was a late romantic Russian composer, teacher and conductor. He studied with Rimsky-Korsakov and later became a professor at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory (later the Leningrad Conservatory) and its director for 23 of his 31 years there, improving the institution in many ways. He left the Soviet Union in 1928, lived in Paris, never to return to Russia until his interment there. The best known student under his tenure was Shostakovich. Glazunov successfully reconciled nationalism and cosmopolitanism in his music. He had many influences including Balakirev, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Taneyev. Outside of his administrative duties at the conservatory, Glazunov's main composing interests lay in orchestral music including symphonies, ballet suites, concertos, concert pieces, and the like, and he greatly enjoyed conducting. By comparison his piano literature is somewhat sparse, although of fine quality.

    The piece at hand is his “Prelude” from the Three Pieces for Piano, Op. 49, No. 1 in D flat dedicated to Annette Essipoff. This work is a very searching piece much like a meditation. In fact in some moments it sounds almost hymn-like. Some of the rolls are difficult, so the piece benefits from large hands. I hope you'll enjoy it.

    Comments welcome.

    Piano: Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6’3”) with the lid fully opened
    Recorder: Korg MR-1000
    Microphones: Earthworks TC-20 matched pair of small diaphragm omni-directional condenser mics in A-B configuration

    Glazunov - Prelude in D-flat Major, Op. 49, No. 1
     
  2. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Glazunov, Prelude Op. 49, No. 1

    Hi David,

    I had a listen to your recording, I have never heard of Glazunov before and it does not look like there is a space for him on PS (yet) :)

    Listening to your interpretation, it was IMO expressive with good shading in your use of dynamics. I don't have the score but when I was listened at around 1:40 I thought the piece ended prematurely or that something was wrong with your recording equipment! So the return of the piece a few seconds later to the climatic ending put my doubts to rest and made for a great story 8)

    Also, from what my ears heard this recording sounds slightly brighter than the liadov. I don't know if its because the lid is completely open? It might be that I'm wearing headphones now, idk. At any rate, I would stick with the recording configuration you have now for future projects.

    Thanks for the introduction to Glazunov,
    ~Riley
     
  3. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Glazunov, Prelude Op. 49, No. 1

    Hi Riley,

    I'm not surprised that you had never encountered Glazunov before, and it reaffirms that this composer is generally neglected by pianists. Presenting one of his pieces here raises awareness which is a good thing. Today, his music probably sounds a bit "old fashion", but to his credit he ignored the Bolshevics and kept composing in his own style uninfluenced by politics. So he's a true late romantic. I guess I'm the first here to offer a work of this composer, it'll likely have to go under the "Various" heading. Nonetheless, perhaps others will look into this worthy composer's repertoire and post more of it here.

    Yes, that empty spot at 1:40 is an 8th rest followed by a fermata over a half rest. It was intended I think as a pause in the meditative reflections. When I first started to work out my interpretation, it gave me pause as well. :lol: But what follows is almost like a jubilant resolution, and the storyline continues as you suggest.

    Probably there are two reasons for the increased brightness in this recording. First, the fully open lid, as you suggest, contributes to it. Also this week the high humidity has departed leaving us with much drier air. It seems that pianos are more sensitive to weather than people. I could use the full lid prop in future projects. The only thing is that the Baldwin L is really powerful, so if I'm doing a piece with loud dynamics, it can really shake the house. Opening it on the singer prop renders a more mellow sound. The Earthworks TC-20 mics can handle the fully open lid as they're designed with plenty of headroom to spare. You really can't overwhelm those mics. I'll give it some thought. I have my next piece in, maybe a Medtner but no hints, which might lend itself well to recording in this way. Maybe some others will comment on this aspect as well.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    David
     
  4. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Hi David,
    I listened with score, and I went to the piano to play it for a better idea of what's going on. I love this piece; I think it's a real gem! Thank you for introducing me to it. For me it has a real sense of nostalgia and a kind of reconciliation possible only after significant time and age has passed. It has much understanding and perspective. Something like slow Mahler stuff. Do you get what I'm talking about? (Maybe I'm just getting old.)

    In general I feel like you have the right feel for the piece ... but I want more of it. I can hear you bringing out melodic lines, but for me it is not "forward" enough. This work definitely has some stuff requiring big hands - or those that can stretch sufficiently. I feel that the second line, in particular, suffers from the breadth of your arpeggiated chords, and wonder if you could not make them a tighter (less broken) sound? Also, I found myself pedaling step-wise melody notes frequently while holding the LH harmony to make the milieu clearer, otherwise for me it sounded too muddled, given all the richness of the harmony and the chromatic passage work. These concepts encompass all the difficulty of the piece IMO.

    One pianistic/musical recommendation I offer for your consideration is that when you play the dominant pedal on the 2nd page (animato) capture it with the sostenuto pedal and use it for the 8 bars following. I think that many pianists rarely consider where the sostenuto pedal is useful. I think I have seen it indicated maybe once or twice in my life, and I don't remember where, but I do remember the first place I used it as a young whipper-snapper teenage-pianist: the opening and closing section of The Rach Prelude in C# minor (it just begs for its use!). Anyway to get back on subject, if you were to do so it would, IMO, bring greater unity to that whole passage in a lovely way.

    I'm not sure this is useful to you but I hope it might be.

    Regards,
    Eddy
     
  5. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi David,

    I don't know Glazunov's music at all, but this certainly sounds like a piece right up your alley! :) I think you played it very nicely; great dramatic flare but also sensitivity - you're usual panache! :)
    You're right in that I put it in the 'various composer' page. If you or anyone else records more Glazunov, then of course we will make a page for him. But you'll have to write the bio! :wink: :lol:
     
  6. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    I'm glad you liked this piece. Yes, I know EXACTLY what you mean by that kind of nostalgia/reconciliation and Mahler's music.

    I think few pianists have ever heard this music, so at least this recording raises awareness a bit.

    On the chord rolls, I did everything in my power to get them started early and fast enough in execution to get them in on the beat, but they're such a handful and stretch, it's not easy! Arpeggiated chords always demand experimentation. In the second line, for rhythmic precision and good blending I tried making the RH and LH portions simultaneous, but disliked the sound as opposed to one continuous roll which is far more lovely, but more of a challenge too in the circumstances. In passages marked animato or agitato, of course they're even more difficult to fit in just right with the added pressure of increased speed. One trick to all of them though is to always catch the low harmonic note in the pedal.

    Regarding the pedaling, I certainly did plenty of changes, but often relied more on a great many half pedal releases as well, for example if the attention was up in the treble with less sustaining notes, or if quieter dynamics allowed it.

    I've used the sostenuto pedal in Debussy and Rachmaninoff for example. In this piece, I didn't happen to think of the application you mention for the A flat pedal point octaves on the last page, although I should have. But another instance caught my eye on that page--the last two measures of coda. That is, to take everything in the first beat in the sostenuto pedal, then playing the last two descending octaves in the LH with damper pedal with quick releases, or even without damper pedal. I was able to execute that perfectly and the sostenuto is in fine adjustment too. Yet I didn't like the sound nearly as much as simply holding the RH triad for full tied value and doing the two descending octaves with a spot of damper pedal for each. So the sostenuto had a test there, but didn't measure up in that instance.

    Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

    David
     
  7. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica,

    Thanks for those very nice compliments on my playing, and for putting this piece into the archive for me. One thing I noticed, and it might be intentional in the formatting or perhaps an omission. While Glazunov shows up on my artist page, he isn't on the composers' page. Is that just missing the cross link between the two pages, or is it intentional because this composer doesn't have his own page and bio? Just wondering. Thanks again.

    David
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Great playing David ! Unlike Eddy I don't feel that anything is wanting here - though it would certainly be possible to play it more dramatically. I did not know this magical prelude so thanks for choosing it. It really is a gem.

    Glazunov was an incredibly good piano composer, and the way he is consistently neglected by all major pianists is baffling. I wonder if many people resent him for drunkenly botching the premiere of Rach's first symphony. That is certainly unforgivable... but boy could Glazunov write some gorgeous music ! Some of his tunes are just to good to be true. And pianistically, he does not miss a trick. Admittedly some of his music is a bit too glib and saccharine (I don't care too much for his piano concertos for example), but his solo oeuvre is worth every pianists's attention.

    I'vee been wanting to introduce Glazunov to PS ever since I joined, with a recording of his Theme and Variations which I love so much. Though I've seriously practiced the piece, it never made it to the imminent recording schedule. Should be getting on with it really. It is with pain in my heart that I gave up on the 4 Preludes and Fugues Op.101. Though absolute masterpieces, they are rather too long and winding, and just too damn difficult :-/
     
  9. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for that compliment!

    I'm glad you enjoyed hearing this piece. Yes, the piece could be played even more dramatically than my recording as Eddy suggests. But in the end I felt that it was still a reflective meditation, so did not wish to depart too far from that concept. I think I kept it within certain boundaries to protect that mood. It is certainly a gem, but a tricky one to execute too!!

    Glazunov in his day was a well-known and respected composer and a colleague of just about all of the well-known Russian composers. He also protected the Saint Petersburg Conservatory from political interference with the tenacity of a junkyard dog! That story of his inebriation while conducting Rachmaninoff's first symphony was based on observations of the latter's wife, which might or might not have been true. Rachmaninoff was forever irked by the incident. In the larger scheme though, although Glazunov considered himself to be premier conductor, he was thought to be more of a journeyman than a master conductor. That might also have been the problem, plus he had inadequate time to closely study the score of the symphony. It was a very unfortunate situation. (Rachmaninoff by the way was a superb conductor, and in his earlier years he was in high demand for that talent.)

    On the saccharine sound of some of his music, it has often been termed old-fashion (especially by the modernists, of course) and salon music, although in the best sense. I need to hear more of his music, but as for this prelude, I believe it is a wonderful composition needing no defense at all. One thing that became quickly noticeable to me though is that in his piano music he thought more orchestrally than pianistically much like Brahms. His first love was orchestra music, so this is not surprising really, but he sometimes paints sound in really big brush strokes that are challenging for the pianist.

    Unfortunately, I think that Glazunov only composed piano music occasionally. His piano literature is quite thin. You mentioned the Theme and Variations and the Preludes & Fugues. He also wrote the Suite on S-a-s-ch-a, Op 2, Three Concert Studies, Op. 31, the Nocturne in D flat, Op. 37, and two Piano Sonatas Opp. 74 and 75. Somebody also told me that he wrote some impromptus. If I were to scour the IMLSP, I could probably glean more among all the orchestral and chamber works, but it would remain a small piano literature--still I'll bet there are more gems in there. You mentioned concertos--he wrote the only concerto for saxophone and orchestra!

    I read that when he left Russia for self-exile, and settled in Paris, he kept a very low profile there. When he died in 1936 there was widespread shock. People assumed that he had passed on many years previously!

    David
     
  10. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Hello, David,

    I have listened to your prelude, which happens to be the only piece of his of which I have the score. As I am a good boy I listened with score in hand. I came to the conclusion your edition and mine are not the same, as I notice a lot of arpeggi which I do not seem to have. The chords I have, however, look impossible to play without arpeggi, so I wonder. Mine comes from piano street. They were offering a free score as an Easter present at one point and, though it might look more impressive if I were to say I had been looking for it for years and all that, I must confess I chose it because it was the only work on the list I thought I could live with.

    As usual you do a good job of it and I like the way your piano sounds here. It must be the weather or Irene or whatnot.

    On the subject of his concerti, I beg to differ: he wrote two piano concerti and a very lovely violin concerto, a work some consider his masterpiece. It is quite short, but ah, so good!

    The problem with Glazunov is that he is a bit uneven and apt even more than Tchaikovsky to pad when inpiration fails and this is quite often in the middle of an otherwise fine work.

    He started off like a Russian and his 1st symphony is actually called "The Slavic", He spent much time and energy weeding out this trait (as he himself puts it - Chris, take heed: he himself! :D ).

    I have a great collection of his work on CD, the best being the violin concerto. I also like his Oriental Sketches, which remind me a bit of Ippolitov-Ivanov, The Kremlin, the "Cortège Solemnel" and the "Slavic Holiday".
     
  11. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hehe, heed taken :D
    But I don't find he himself quote so portentous as I myself.

    Ah yes the violin concerto os a marvel, much better than the piano concerti. I also love The Kremlin. Also Stenka Razin, the Finnish Fantasy and the suite From Middle Ages. And selected parts from his 7 symphonies (the slow mvt of the second is a thing of great beauty).
     
  12. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    We could well be looking at different scores. I used the original Belaieff Edition, plate 24333. I have a Silver subscription rather than Gold at Piano Street, so cannot download sheet music there, but I also find that most of what I search for in the literature is hardly ever available there anyway, so not worth the extra money for a Gold subscription in my case at least. Seems like they cater mostly to standard repertoire items. They do show the snippet of the Glazunov score at the top of the website page. The thing I noticed was that the metronome marking after Moderato is missing. All of the header information on mine is in Cyrillic.

    As to the arpeggiated chords, I can generally handle an interval of an 10th provided that it's no more than a three-note chord. So what I did in this piece was to observe the roll markings given by Glazunov, but as you suspected, in a few instances as in the agitato poco section, there are simply some impossibilities for me there, including redistribution of the music between the hands, as the RH is fully occupied and unable to assist the LH. So there I took the liberty of rolling the LH chords as necessary which, of course, is acceptable practice. I do believe it still sounds fine being played in that way. I attribute these thick chordal textures as Glazunov at times thinking orchestrally rather that pianistically.

    Regarding the piano sound, for this piece the lid was fully open, whereas in the prior Liadoff pieces, it was opened partially on the shorter lid prop. I think Riley commented on this same point too, preferred this sound to the other.

    Thanks for listening, and glad you enjoyed it.

    David
     
  13. MarkB

    MarkB Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello David,

    I enjoyed your playing.

    I've not come across the Opus 49 pieces at all so thank you for this introduction.

    Have you learnt the other 2 pieces in the set ?

    Glazunov doesn't seem to get played very often these days. I remember Leslie Howard's recordings in the late 1970s and I learnt the Opus 72 Theme and Variations with my teacher at that time but like Chris, I've never got around to recording it.

    Thank you.

    Regards
    Mark
     
  14. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Mark,

    Glad you liked this piece! It is a beauty. I haven't learned the two companion pieces, the caprice and the govotte, as they just don't appeal to me. To appeal, a piece has to have an ultra-romantic quality and exude ravishing beauty. So I really scour the literature to find those wherever I can. This prelude at hand certainly fits the bill!

    Yes, Glazunov seems to have faded a little. During his lifetime he was very prominent in music circles and in the concert halls. Nowadays some people have never even heard his name before. It reminds me of Carl Maria von Weber. In his time he was considered the giant in the music world. But now, we seldom ever hear his music. I think that within a particular era a composer is thought of relative to the others of the time. But as the decades go by, musicians and listeners have a much longer perspective, inevitably leading to a post-reassessment. I think this is how some come to rise or slip in the "ratings". In a way that works for me, as I look for neglected and nearly forgotten composers, find extraordinary music in the process, dust if off and present it. I find that listeners really love hearing music that has become buried in the archives yet has great beauty.

    Regarding recordings, it seems to me that Coombs did one or more Glazunov CDs, but I'd have to go to Amazon to be sure.

    Thanks for listening!

    David
     
  15. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Though I am a great fan of Glazunov, and not particularly of Weber, I believe Weber to be a more seminal figure especially in his operas which paved the way for Wagner.

    I think he record all of Glazunov for Hyperion. From the little I've heard, very good and capable playing though not particularly inspiring. It peeves me that none of the really greats ever bother to play some Glazunov, think Lugansky, Berezovsky, Ashkenazy, you name them. All too busy with Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov I guess. Though to his credit, Berezovsky makes a good case for Medtner and Liadov, so who knows.
     
  16. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for that update. Yes, I thought that Coombs had played at least some of Glazunov's pieces, but didn't realize he had done the whole repertoire. That's quite an accomplishment. Coombs is certainly not top tier like a Lugansky, but he's still a very fine pianist. I would take a chance on those CDs.

    Yes, Weber was a seminal figure. Like his contemporaries Beethoven and Schubert, Weber was a transitional composer who helped lay the foundation for the beginning of the Romantic Age. I think in some ways Mendelssohn took some cues from Weber, as Weber recognized Mendelssohn's potential very early and became a mentor to him. Weber's virtuosic style is thought also to have influenced Schumann, Chopin and Liszt, as well as paving the way for Wagner as you mentioned.

    David
     
  17. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi David,

    Pity that this piece is so short! I think it's wonderful that you're exploring the gems from the Russian repertoire. Generally, I tend to think that what's forgotten has been forgotten for a reason, but the music of the late Russian romantics seems to encompass many unjustly neglected masterpieces, often in miniature form but exquisite nonetheless.

    A very solid and controlled performance to my ears (nice rolls in particular). You seem to capture this prelude's majesty and grandeur well. By comparison to the greats, the prelude seems to be reminiscent of Rachmaninoff's sometimes chorale-like chordal style.

    I very much enjoyed listening.

    Joe
     
  18. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for that nice compliment. I appreciate it. On the big rolls, I always study a score away from the piano before I practice it. One of the first things I noticed, of course, where those rolls. So I made a note at the top of the page to be anticipatory in order to bring each roll in on the beat. It worked pretty well, although to make it happen the pianist really needs to scramble even with the early preparation!

    Yes, it's difficult to understand how so many of these beautiful pieces fell into near oblivion. The only thing I can think of is that at the time with the advent of "modern music", attention shifted away from then what was considered neo-romantic music. And once a piece of music is out of circulation long enough, it's easy for it to pretty much vanish from the recital halls. I always feel like I'm on a treasure hunt retrieving some of these wonderful works. And when I look back at all the recordings I did of Bortkiewicz and Catoire, for example, every second I spent on that wonderful music was well worth the effort.

    Thanks for listening!

    David
     
  19. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    For anyone who might be interested, using different sources I was able to construct a listing of Glazunov's piano literature. I cannot guarantee that it's complete, but I believe that if not, then it's very close to it. It's a relatively thin repertoire as compared to the output of many other composers of piano music, but remember that Glazunov's primary interest was orchestral music. Here is the list:

    ALEKSANDR GLAZUNOV'S SOLO PIANO WORKS

    Suite on the Name Sascha, Op. 2
    Two Pieces for Piano, Op. 22
    Waltz on the Name Sabela, Op. 23
    Prelude and Two Mazurkas, Op. 25
    Gavotte, Op. 29, No. 3
    Three Concert Etudes, Op. 31
    Petite Valse, Op. 36
    Nocturne pour Piano, Op. 37
    Grand valse de concert, Op. 41
    Three Miniatures, Op. 42
    Salon Waltz, Op. 43
    Three Pieces for Piano, Op. 49
    Two Impromptus, Op. 54
    Prelude and Fugue, Op. 62
    Theme and Variations, Op. 72
    Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 74
    Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 75
    Four Preludes and Fugues, op. 101
    Idylle, Op. 103
    Four Improvisations
    Miniature
    Little Gavotte
    Menuet pour Piano

    David
     
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    Biggemski New Member

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