Hyperion Records

Mazurka-oberek in D major
Altogether more substantial than the Meditation is the rarely heard Mazurka-oberek in D major, likewise written for violin with either piano or orchestral accompaniment, in the fateful year 1917. Glazunov had been a prolific composer up to around the time he wrote the violin concerto, but thereafter his responsibilities as head of the St Petersburg Conservatoire weighed heavily on his time and he wrote comparatively few works in the remaining thirty years of his life. During the First World War he composed a small number of works with patriotic associations and it is possible that the Mazurka-oberek falls into this category since it is based on Polish dances and the Russian army had been doing much of its fighting on the Polish front.

The dance which has become known as the Mazurka (in Polish, Mazurek) takes that name from the district of Mazovia, around Warsaw, originally inhabited by the Slavic ethnic group known as the Mazurs: though it has come to be a general designation applied to a number of dances from that area, principally the moderate-paced Mazur, the slow Kujawiak and the fast Oberek, which share similar features. All these dances, which would normally have been danced to the accompaniment of a bagpipe and fiddle, are in triple time, with a dotted rhythm and a strong accent (signalling a tap of the heel) on the second or third beat. These features can clearly be heard in Glazunov’s piece, which also shows he is aware of the distinctions between the various forms of the dance.

Beginning Allegro vivo with bagpipe imitations in the orchestra and a repetitive theme which recurs many times as a kind of ritornello, the Mazurka-oberek soon displays a solo violin part quite as virtuosic as anything in the concerto while Glazunov constructs a succession of attractive tunes with a distinct Polish character. The frosty delicacy of the scoring and the range of sonorities Glazunov draws from the violin in harmonics, trills and sonorous double- and triple-stopping show he had lost none of his sure compositional touch. This delightful piece, which works up to a scintillating conclusion, deserves to be better known.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2013

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