Valery Polyansky

Glazunov: Symphony No. 6; Characteristic Suite

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Glazunov's Symphony No. 6 may not be his greatest symphony -- surely the magnificent and muscular Eighth has that honor -- and it may not be his most characteristic symphony -- surely his grand and glorious Fifth has that honor -- and it certainly is not his most charming symphony -- surely the lyrical and pastoral Seventh has that honor -- but absolutely Glazunov's Sixth is his only symphony in a minor key and, as such, is his most serious and dramatic symphony.

But while Valery Polyansky's recording of the work with the Russian State Symphony Orchestra takes the drama seriously, it goes too far in making the serious dramatic. Too often, Polyansky's interpretation is merely serious scenery chewing. Should the themes of a Glazunov symphony really sound like the themes of a Rachmaninov symphony, that is, morbidly melancholy? Should the climaxes of a Glazunov symphony really sound like the climaxes of a Tchaikovsky symphony, that is, hysterically histrionic? No, of course not: Glazunov was that rarity among Russian composers of the Silver Age, a sane and happy man, and even at his most serious and dramatic, he was never morbid and never hysterical. So while Polyansky and the Russian State Symphony do a reasonable job of presenting the music, it is not exactly Glazunov's music they are presenting, but Glazunov as a composer with weighty emotional problems. And that's just not Glazunov. Chandos' sound is gargantuan.

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