The Last Volume in Naxos' Glazunov Project
M. C. Passarella | Lawrenceville, GA | 11/06/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Masquerade is incidental music to a play by Mikhail Lermontov, after Pushkin Russia's most celebrated poet. The plot is more than a little reminiscent of Shakespeare's Othello, as the protagonist of Lermontov's play, Evgeny Arbenin, is first convinced of his innocent wife's unfaithfulness and then poisons her. At the end of the play Arbenin falls into madness as a result of jealousy, guilt, and uncertainty. The restrainedly tragic music toward the end of the incidental music portrays this very effectively. Otherwise, Glazunov's piece is dominated by a series of festive dances that reflect the upper-class world of balls and soirees that the Arbenins inhabit. There is, in the trajectory of both the play and the music, something of the Tchaikovsky/Pushkin opera Evgeny Onegin about the Glazunov/Lermontov enterprise, from its lively ball scenes to its somber conclusion.
As befits the subject, Glazunov's music is less colorful and extrovert than his music for Raymonda and The Seasons, but there is nonetheless much of interest here, from the wordless chorus in the first two numbers to the tableau of the chiming clock (less demonstrative than the chiming clocks in The Nutcracker or Cinderella) to the very apposite inclusion of Glinka's Valse-Fantaisie in B-Minor, a piece nearly contemporary with the action of Lermontov's play.
The other works on the disc are, with the exception of Pas de charactere, fairly substantial in length if not in musical content. But they are colorfully orchestrated and attractive, a worthy appendix to this, the last volume (Volume 18) in Naxos' survey of Glazunov's orchestral music.
Yablonsky and the Russian Philharmonic catch the color and verve of the music, as well as successfully convey the tragic qualities inherent in the drama. Orchestra and chorus turn in polished performances and are captured in good, detailed studio sound. For Glazunov enthusiasts and Russian Romantic music mavens generally, this is a recommendable release."
A major find of Glazunov's incidental score. So why are so m
David A. Hollingsworth | Washington, DC USA | 07/31/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Glazunov's incidental score for Mikhail Lermontov's play "Masquerade" was written in 1912-1913 and was used in Meyerhold's production at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in 1917. The play centers around the main characters Yevgeny Arbenin (a questionable protagonist in a heroic sense) and Nina. Bored, contemptuous of St. Petersburg's society, Arbenin finds himself jealous of his wife, Nina, whom he accuses of infidelity. He poisons her, but not before learning from a stranger that he was wrong, that he wife was faithful after all. Arbenin is driven to madness as a result while Prince Zvezditch, a known gambler, remains a dishonored figure.
No room for redemption here, and the bitterness of the play (written in 1836 by the way) was too much for Russia at the time: its criticism of Russia's contemporary society was difficult to swallow and the play itself was banned for some thirty years. Glazunov's manuscript does survive (in whatever form(s) I'm not so sure), and Dmitry Yablonsky, the Russian Philharmonic, and the Gnesin Academy Chorus shall be greeted with gratitude for bringing this gorgeous, illuminating score to light.
And yet questions linger as to the authenticity and the flow of the score. There's no doubt of Glazunov's orchestral palette, which, as usual, remains highly varied, detailed, and as stated before, illuminating. This composer captured the scenes euphoniously (and even borrowed a bit from Glinka's Valse Fantastique for Act III-and not disapprovingly so I should add). The Pantomime no. 4 is particularly striking as are Tableau no. 9 and the Entr'acte to Act IV. But looking at the back cover and Keith Anderson's detailed synopsis, I have this discomforting feeling that too much of the music is missing. Other than the fact that there are missing obvious items such as Act II, Tableaus 1, 4, 5, 7, Pantomime nos. 2, 9, 10, entrances 1-5, scene 5, and so forth, the synopsis seems to confirm that the overall presentation of Yablonksy and his forces does not quite add up. Moreover, the Nina's song, published separating in 1916 as opus 106, is curiously omitted here. Glazunov was too good and too descriptive of a composer not to paint a broad, complete picture with an agreeable, if not a compelling sense of direction. Here, the arrangements seem too jumbled. For instance, Arbenin's decent into madness feels incomplete and underwhelming (the orchestra's performance is polished but generalized: lacking that angst and bite needed to depict the story more compellingly). It seems that further scholarly research is needed for the full version of the score to be discovered and brought to light (and besides, Glazunov's archives are in St. Petersburg, Paris, and in Germany). Then again, I could be wrong, and that this is all that exists of Glazunov's incidental music. Besides, thinking of his later score, the one for Romanov's play "Tsar Iudeyskiy", some of the music is rather jumbled as well, though to a much lesser extent. As the saying goes, we'll see. And besides, did Valery Polyansky record the work under the Chandos label some years ago that coupled the composer's Seventh Symphony (announced by Gramophone Magazine and never released to this day)? Just a wonder.
Anyhow, the fillers are likewise attractive in their own ways, like the two pieces for small orchestra completed in 1886. In Idyll, the music is sensuous, and in Reverie orientale, the music is captivating. But Yablonsky fails to go deeper into the wonders of those pieces (way too fast and uninvolving in Idyll I feel). Only Svetlanov in his Melodiya CD album (SUCD 10-00028) will you find a greater sense of exotic coloring brought out by the fuller strings intonation (that attribute which made the USSR State Symphony a model for so many years until the early 1990s). The Romantic Intermezzo (1900) is likewise well-played, but it is not the heart on the your sleeves type of performance one will find in Odiysseiy Dimitriedi rendition with the USSR Radio Symphony (again under Melodiya).
So, with the music for "Masquerade" now available, efficiently and professionally performed by all involved, this album is an appealing buy.
At least for now."