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Violin Concerto in A minor, Op 82
1904/5; dedicated to Leopold Auer, who gave the first performance, the composer conducting, in St Petersburg on 15 February 1905

'Glazunov & Schoeck: Works for violin and orchestra' (CDA67940)
Glazunov & Schoeck: Works for violin and orchestra
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Movement 1: Moderato
Movement 2: Andante Ė cadenza Ė
Movement 3: Allegro

Violin Concerto in A minor, Op 82
Glazunov wrote the Violin Concerto in A minor, Op 82, in 1904–5 when he was at the height of his fame in Russia, partly in St Petersburg and partly at his summer home in Oserki where the pastoral setting, near forest and lake, lent something to the concerto’s lyrical mood. It was premiered on 15 February 1905 in St Petersburg at a concert of the Russian Music Society, conducted by the composer, with the great violinist Leopold Auer (to whom it is dedicated) as the soloist. It was Auer’s fourteen-year-old pupil Mischa Elman who gave the first performances outside Russia in the same year, helping to build the work’s international reputation. Hans Keller claimed that Glazunov’s treatment of the solo violin’s character made the work ‘something quite unique … a violin concerto which could have been written by a fiddler, even though he himself didn’t play the instrument … Glazunov created an almost perfect concerto—instrumentally, the best I know amongst pianists’ violin concertos’. (We should note, however, that Testimony, the much-disputed ‘memoirs’ of Shostakovich, asserts that Glazunov played many instruments—the violin among them—‘perfectly’.) Whatever the truth of this, it is certainly the case that Glazunov wrote his own brilliantly effective cadenza for the concerto and there is no question that this is a superbly imagined work with the solo part beautifully integrated into the overall design.

Essentially Glazunov’s violin concerto is in a single continuous movement, probably modelled on the piano concertos of Liszt, which Glazunov much admired. There is a concise exposition, with a dolce, espressivo violin theme as its main focus. The ensuing Andante section, which is in a self-contained ternary form that somehow fits smoothly into the evolving design of the concerto, is distinguished by contributions from harp and horn and introduces a new tranquillo theme before moving on to a development of the exposition material. After the recapitulation has run its course Glazunov includes a solo cadenza, fully integrated into the structure as a link to the fast finale section (Shostakovich would do likewise in his string concertos). As the cadenza draws to a close a solo trumpet states the bold main theme of the rondo finale, a ‘hunting’ tune in the style of an exuberant Cossack dance. There are two subsidiary ideas, one light and charming, the other altogether more rustic, but taken together the three themes add up to a vivacious and high-spirited send-off for an altogether masterly concerto.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2013

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