German label breathes new life into old-fashioned quartets.
Although best known for his ballets and late-Romantic symphonies, the accomplished (and dare I say undervalued) Alexander Glazunov composed string quartets throughout a long and distinguished career. The complete cycle consists of seven fine quartets, all of which have been recorded by the excellent German company Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm. This fifth and final volume offers two works from the opposite extremes of Glazunov’s life: The First Quartet hails from 1881 when the composer was a bright young thing of 16; the last was written during his 1930s exile in Paris.
The youthful exuberance of the First Quartet gives way to the wistful nostalgia of the Seventh but they are essentially the same language. Glazunov successfully fused the nationalistic style of The Mighty Handful with Tchaikovsky’s western-leaning Romanticism and the resulting works have a distinctly 19th-century feel, exploring one tuneful, memorable idea after another with considerable craft.
MDG has an uncanny knack for capturing the sound of the string quartet to an unparalleled degree, offering an honest acoustic and beautiful dynamic range. When Glazunov died in 1936, so old-fashioned was his style that many people were surprised – they thought that he had already been dead for many years. At this distance, however, it is possible to enjoy his works simply for what they are: beautiful examples of the best kind of Russian music.
This article appeared in the June, 2012 issue of Limelight Magazine.
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